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Edited by Milton Waldman 



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IW'illiam Dampier 





Made and rrimfd tn (»rcaf Hufaiti 
T. and A. Cun'si aiij.k I.m, Kdinlmuih 


O adequate life of Dampier exists. 
It is true that during the late 
eighteenth and early nineteenth cen- 
turies many biographical notices of 
him appeared, usually in those mas- 
sive volumes of “ collected voyages ” 
so dear to our ancestors’ hearts. But 
all of these that I have seen (and I cannot have missed 
many) consisted, as regards his private life, merely of 
those very few statements which he himself has vouch- 
safed to us ; and, as regards his adventures, of a 
summarized version of his own narrative and those of 
his fellow-voyagers. 

The first with any claim to originality appeared in the 
United Service Journal and Magazine (Parts iii and iv) 
in 1837, and has been generally attributed to Rear- 
Admiral Smyth, the distinguished writer on naval ques- 
tions. Smyth had taken the trouble to look up some of 
Dampier’s correspondence ; in dealing with his authori- 
ties he had compared the original manuscripts, many 
of which are in the Sloane Collection, with the published 
books ; and in this way had discovered the barefaced 
“ doctoring ” of Ringrose by Hackc, in the interests of 
Captain Sharp. Also he had found out when Dampier 
died, and had been through the files at Doctors’ Commons 



and discovered his will. In addition to all this, his 
own comments and deductions are those of a shrewd 
and friendly critic. I am greatly in his debt. But he 
made one deplorable error, in denying indignantly that 
Dampier had ever been court-martialled. The only 
previous references to this unfortunate incident had been 
of a vague and general character, and Smyth does not 
seem to have taken them seriously enough to make any 
inquiry into the matter. 

It was left to Professor Sir J. K. Laughton, in his 
otherwise rather slight and none too friendly account of 
Dampier in the Dkthnnrj of NcHianul Biography, to 
supply this deficiency. Mr. Masefield, in his very 
valuable notes and appendixes to the new edition of 
Dampicr’s works, published by Messrs. Grant Richards 
in 1906, dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. He has, more- 
over, summarized Fisher’s charges against Dampier, 
with Dampier’s answers, and has also quoted at some 
length from the correspondence between Dampier and 
the Admiralty. But the whole business of the court- 
martial may be studied at leisure in the Public Record 
Office by anyone sufficiently interested. I have also 
found there the Master’s Ix>g of the “ Roebuck,” and 
much other interesting matter. No previous writer has 
made use of this log, which is often very valuable. It 
shows signs of having been in the water, and probably 
got a wetting when the “ Roebuck ” was lost ofi" Ascen- 
sion Island. The muster-book unfortunately went down 
with the ship. Such new information as I have obtained 
from the log will be found in the following pages. 

The great value of Mr. Masefield’s work lies in the 



timely and well-informed editorial notes with which he 
has discreetly peppered Dampier’s pages. After Smyth, 
my greatest debt is to him. I have also derived much 
pleasure and assistance from Sir Albert Gray’s essay on 
Dampier in the Argonaut Press edition of the New 
Voyage^ to which I shall refer again later. Mr. N. M. 
Penzer’s bibliographical note in the same volume is of 
the highest value, and has, I believe, been adopted in 
the catalogues of the British Museum. Mr. G. E. 
Manwaring has gone out of his way to make many 
friendly and helpful suggestions. Finally, I cannot con- 
clude without a word of thanks to the Rev. Maurice R. 
Bailey, vicar of East Coker, whose kind hospitality and 
keen interest in the subject gave me such a pleasant 
start upon my journey. 






































Captain William Dampier ..... Frontispiece 

From the painting by Thomas Murray in the National 
Fortrait Gallery, 

Hymerford House, East Coker, Dampier’s Birth- 
place Facing page 14 

The Battle of the Texel, August iith, 1673 • » ^4 

From a colour print lent by Messrs, T. H, Farker, 

Panama about 1690 . . . . . . „ „ 72 

From the Macpherson Collection, 

Moll’s Map of the Middle Part of America . „ „ 86 

A Fifth-rater of 1684 . . . . . „ „ 158 

From John CharnocFs “ History of Marine Architecture,'' 

A Page Illustration from Dampier’s “ A New Voyage 

round the World ” . . . . . „ „ 170 

Reproduced from the 1697 edition. 

Map Illustrating the Voyage of H.M.S. “ Roebuck ” „ „ 180 

The Island of Juan Fernandez . . . . „ „ 218 

Captain Woodes Rogers, with his Son and Daughter, 

1729 ...-•-••»?? 234 

From the engraving by W, Skelton after the painting by Hogarth, 

Note. — The author and publishers are indebted to Messrs. Cassell 
& Co. Ltd. for permission to reproduce Thomas Murray’s portrait 
of Dampier and Skelton’s engraving of Captain Woodes Rogers 
from Captain Rogers’s A Cruising Voyage Round the World ; to 
Lt.-Col. J. B. Batten, D.S.O., for permission to reproduce the 


illustration of Hymerford House from his book Historical and Topo- 
graphical Collections relating to South Somerset j to Messrs. Martin 
Hopkinson Ltd. for permission to reproduce The Island of Juan 
Fernandez’’ from their edition of Anson's Voyage Round the World 
and to Messrs. Halton and Truscott Smith and the Trustees of the 
Macpherson Collection for permission to reproduce Panama about 
1690 ” and '*The Battle of the Texcl*’ from Frank C. Bowen's The 
Sea : its History and Romance* 




HE character to be presented in these 
pages is that of one of the great English 
explorers — one whose achievements 
surpassed those of any rival over a 
period of about a hundred years. From 
the accession of Charles I to the death 
of Queen Anne, it is hard to think of 
any English voyages of discovery at all 
comparable with Dampier’s, or of any travel record half 
as valuable as his. Hakluyt died in i6i6, and in the 
same year (it was also the year in which the Dutch 
rounded Cape Horn) the little barque “ Discovery ” left 
Gravesend on its famous voyage to Baffin’s Bay. But 
between that date and Dampier’s death in 1715 — 
between the last of the Elizabethans and the great 
sailors of the mid-eighteenth century — this one figure 
stands out almost alone. 

It is not that the English effort ceased entirely during 
this period ; except for the break caused by the Civil 
War, it was both continuous and successful. But it is 
as though the English explorers, moved by some common 
impulse, had given up sighing for new worlds to conquer, 
and agreed to concentrate upon exploiting and extend- 
ing the discoveries already made. And that makes them 
rather shadowy figures from our point of view, limping 
far behind such gallant adventurers as the Dutchman, 
Tasman, or their own countryman, Dampier. 

Again, it is not as though the scientific work of the 



geographers and map-makers had been allowed to cease. 
On the contrary, throughout the reign of Charles II, 
we seem to have been actively preparing, whether con- 
sciously or not, for the great effort that was to mark 
the middle years of the succeeding century. Shipbuild- 
ing design improved, being not a little encouraged by 
the intelligent interest taken in the subject by the King. 
Navigation was studied to some purpose. For the first 
time it became possible to take accurate observations at 
sea. And by 1713 that most efficient and industrious 
of Royal Commissions, the Board of Longitude, had 
begun its sittings in London, and was mightily smoothing 
the way for Dampier’s successors. In fact, the whole 
atmosphere had changed. But Dampier himself bene- 
fited little by all this. He was just too soon. He put 
to sea in leaky ships and ill-equipped. He says himself 
that the only maps which he possessed of the Pacific 
were “ all false.” When he sailed the crazy “ Roebuck ” 
to the unknown shores of Australia in 1699, and when 
he piloted Woodes Rogers round the world, he did so 
with surprisingly few technical advantages over his 
Elizabethan predecessors. He had mutinous crews, and 
an unfortunate “ past ” of his own, which probably 
made it difficult for him to impose his authority on 
subordinate officers. Only his natural genius and his 
irrepressible spirit of adventure brought him through. 

Yet in the face of this record it has been said of 
Dampier — and it is implied in everything that is written 
of him — that he was “ not formed of the stuff of which 
explorers are made.”! There may be some truth in 
that, and I do not know that I am much concerned to 
deny it. After all, it only makes him more interesting. 
Perhaps it is not really so easy to define precisely the 
kind of material that goes to make explorers. Certainly 
they have differed quite noticeably in the past. It 
'^.Chx]i'B.\mt)lm.Englis/i Men of Action. Macmillati: 1925. 


would be difficult, for instance, to imagine two char- 
acters more opposed than those of Drake and Raleigh — 
or Hawkins and Grenville. And, coming a little nearer 
to Dampier’s own time, what greater contrast could 
there be than between that mad fellow Coryat, who 
preceded him, and the sagacious Captain Cook, who 
came after ? There are many different kinds of “ stuff ” 
here ; and it may very well be that you cannot say 
what constitutes a great explorer, any more than you 
can say what constitutes a great artist, except by looking 
at the results. 

But Dampier was undoubtedly unusual. He has no 
counterpart in the whole history of English exploration. 
He lacked so conspicuously some of the most obvious 
characteristics which we expect to find in explorers, and 
without which it seems impossible that they should 
succeed. You have only to look at his portrait. It was 
painted by Thomas Murray, and has become increasingly 
popular in black and white reproductions during recent 
years. Some months ,ago, a very striking advertising 
poster^ was displayed on the London hoardings, in 
which were grouped together figures representing most 
of the great English explorers from the Elizabethans to 
the present day. Dampier, of course, was among them ; 
and anyone who took the trouble to study that poster 
will surely agree that it was quite startling to come upon 
this dark, unhappy, brooding face amid the bluff, open, 
confident countenances of the other great discoverers of 
our Empire. 

The original hangs in the National Portrait Gallery ; 
and, if it is not one of the most important works of art 
there, it is certainly one of the most interesting from the 
psychological point of view. It depicts a thin, slightly- 
built man in middle life, not so dark as the black and 
white prints would suggest — ^no swarthy gipsy — but a 
^ Published by the Empire Marketing Board. 



man of ruddy complexion with brown (not black) hair 
and strangely dark blue eyes. There is a beak of a nose, 
a firm, round chin, and a jutting underlip, from which 
his critics no doubt deduced obstinacy and his friends 
strength. But the chief impression that one carries away 
is of a rather pathetic, battered look in his large eyes, as 
of one who had started out in life with high i-omantic 
ideals and got cruelly mauled by the world. It is a 
fascinating, appealing, baffling portrait. Plainly the 
artist, Murray, was keenly interested in his subject, for 
we do not find this quality in his other work. And 
underneath the portrait is the simple legend : “ Captain 
William Dampier : Pirate and Hydrographer.” It is as 
though we were to describe a man as “ John Smith, 
burglar and mathematician,” or “ Tom Jones, bush- 
ranger and astronomer.” The description is not quite 
fair to Dampier, for, though he sailed with the buccaneers, 
that was a very different thing from turning pirate ; but 
the legend does at any rate give the measure of his 
astonishing versatility. 

As for his faults, they are here written clearly in his 
face for all to see. We can perceive a sort of petulant 
discontent with life, and more than a hint of temper. 
On the other hand, the face is strong and purposeful, 
without being really commanding. I'here is not quite 
enough of the drill-sergeant here. It is plain from his 
record that Dampier did not understand how to manage 
men. He had not the habit of command. His only 
idea of keeping his crew in order was to swear at them. 
Nor can we forget that when he returned from Australia, 
a court-martial found him to be “ not a fit person to be 
employed as commander of any of his Majesty’s ships ” — 
though it is, perhaps, equally important to remember 
that he was, as a matter of fact, given another command 
within the year 1 Discipline in those days was not the 
simple matter that it is now. If punishments were 


severe, rules were less stereotyped : there was the recog- 
nized custom of consulting subordinates before taking 
big decisions ; and, on those long voyages, there was a 
readiness on the part of the ship’s company to engage 
in intrigues against their superiors, which would bring 
swift retribution to-day. Drake had to hang a man for 
mutiny ; John Smith was nearly hanged for it himself ; 
Shelvocke, who was Dampier’s contemporary (and also 
circumnavigated the globe) did not better but worse 
than he. 

Yet I do not find it easy to explain this weakness in 
Dampier. It has been suggested already that his 
buccaneering past may have been against him, when 
in command of the King’s ships. But to know that 
your captain was an old buccaneer, who had sailed with 
Sharp and Sawkins, seems no reason for defying him 
on his own quarter-deck. Rather the contrary ! It 
may possibly have led Dampier’s people to under- 
estimate his intelligence and distrust his intentions — 
no doubt a bad enough thing on a ship — but it is no 
adequate explanation of his failure as a disciplinarian. 

Sir Albert Gray, in the masterly little essay on Dampier 
which he has contributed to a recent edition of A New 
V oyage Round the W orld^ suggests that though Dampier 
was with the buccaneers he was never of them ; that 
he neither sought nor desired high command in so 
disreputable a profession ; that this Somerset farmer’s 
son, brought up as a shopkeeper, was, in fact, too much 
of a gentleman. It is a penetrating remark. Dampier 
never seems to have made any money out of these 
voyages ; nor out of any voyage except his last — ^which 
not he, but Woodes Rogers, commanded. He had 
other ideals. Alone among his associates, he was more 

^ A New Foyage Round the World. By William Dampier. With an 
Introduction by Sir Albert Gray, K.C.B., K.C., President of the Hakluyt 
Society. Argonaut Press. London: 1927. 



interested in the countries they saw than in the amount 
of money they could make out of them. The fact that 
his name is hardly mentioned by those of his early 
buccaneering companions who have left us accounts of 
their adventures, may not unreasonably be attributed to 
this detached attitude of his. 

He had, moreover, a natural modesty, still more 
unusual in such company. We see it everywhere in 
his writings. And in his appearance, as we have just 
noted, there was little of the swashbuckler. He was 
not, for instance, the kind of man to cut a figure in 
London society, and we shall gather nothing of his 
personality in private life from a study of contemporary 
memoirs. But there is one invaluable reference by the 
diarist, John Evelyn, which cannot be omitted from any 
character sketch of Dampier. Evelyn was evidently 
aware of the charges of violence and bad language 
brought against Dampier by his enemies. Yet when he 
met him at dinner at the house of Samuel Pepys, the 
diarist, he found him “a more modest man than one 
would imagine by relation of the crew he had assorted 
with.” ^ What interests us here is that the shrewd and 
discriminating Mr. Pepys should have thought well 
enough of him to invite him to dinner with his old 
friend, Evelyn ; and that a great gentleman like John 
Evelyn should have been so pleasantly surprised by his 
modest address. If only Pepys’s eyes had not failed 
him thirty years before, we might even have had one of 
his own characteristic comments upon this very excep- 
tional buccaneer. 

The truth is that it is just this weakness — if we must 
call it a weakness — in Dampier’s character that makes 
him so^ attractive. It is more than a mere accident of a 
quiet, intellectual young fellow finding himself serving 
with die buccaneers. Indeed it was no accident. 
Dampier went to sea at an early age, against the wishes 


of his father, because no other way of life would serve 
him. He has given us his own account of the matter, 
and it requires no stretch of the imagination to picture 
him struggling miserably with his Latin books in that 
Somerset school, while all his heart was far away on the 
Spanish Main. 

What schoolboy would have felt otherwise in those 
great days ? The wonder is that they did not all run 
away to sea ! Even to-day there is more of the world 
undiscovered than most people are aware of ; but it is 
a mere odd corner or two, compared with the wide 
prospect which offered itself to adventurous youth in the 
latter part of the seventeenth century. Half the earth 
and sea lay open to their endeavour. Comparatively 
few of the islands of the Pacific had been discovered ; 
Africa had only been nibbled at ; great tracts of land 
were imagined where in reality there was only sea ; it 
was not even known that Australia was a continent. 
Dampier, over his Latin books, may well have dreamed 
of a time when his name would appear on every map — 
as it does to-day. That, I think, is the real clue to his 
character. He was not by nature a man of action, but 
an artist and a dreamer. He was a romantic schoolboy 
whose dreams came true — came true because he made 
them. His great successor, James Cook, ran away to 
sea in his early teens. Cook, with his commanding 
presence and tougher fibre, had every qualification for 
the part. Dampier had only his dreams. Yet he got 
to Australia just the same — ^we recall that jutting under- 
lip ! — and it was only by a chance that he missed being 
acclaimed its true discoverer instead of Cook. 

This is no fantastic theory of Dampier’s character, 
based upon the few words he has written about his early 
life. As we follow the story of his career, we shall find 
evidence of it at every turn : of his restless longing for 
adventure, his insatiable appetite for strange sights, of 



the curiosity — that is the word — which has been the 
inspiration of all great travel since the world began. It 
is the one undisputed fact about him. He left Captain 
Edward Davis to go with Swan in 1685, “not from 
any dislike to my old captain, but to get some know- 
ledge of the northern parts of this Continent of Mexico,” 
and because Swan intended eventually to pass over for 
the East Indies, “ which was always very agreeable to 
my inclinations.” He left Swan for similar reasons in 
the following year, “ knowing that the further we went, 
the more knowledge and experience I should get, which 
was the main thing I regarded.” He only joined the 
buccaneers “ more to indulge my curiosity than to get 
wealth.” Elsewhere there are contradictions. One 
hostile writer will assert that Dampier’s crew were in 
the habit of calling him a coward to his face ; and a 
few pages later the same critic will complain that he was 
such a bully that he “ would fly out in a passion ” if 
anyone even ventured to differ from him. But in regard 
to his inspiration, there seems to be no doubt. He was 
no sooner back in England than he began thinking of 
his next voyage. That was the spirit that .sustained 
him. The fact that his writings are .so extraordinarily 
readable to-day is due, not only to his natural literary 
gift, of which he was quite unaware, but to this same 
passionate interest in the world and its inhabitants. The 
eager notes which he jotted down about everything he 
saw could have been written by no one else. Dampier 
may not have been a born leader of men ; but he was, 
at any rate, a born traveller, and a born travel-writer. 

Such was the character of the man whose career we 
are about to study. The duty of his biographer is, as I 
understand it, simply to present him W'holc — to state 
the facts-— without any attempt to judge him by twentieth- 
century standards, or to point the ' moral of his tale. 
Dampier is not up for judgment here. He is not before 



“ the bar of history.” Indeed — ^it has been said before, 
but cannot be said too often — history is not a bar in 
the sense of being a police-court. It would be more 
reasonable to describe it as a bar in the sense of being 
a place where men assemble together to tell stories of 
those who have gone before, and drink their healths, 
perhaps ; but not to judge them. In such an atmo- 
sphere, Captain William Dampier, “ pirate and hydro- 
grapher,” would be at his ease. Yet because he was 
so human, we may find a special pleasure in his story. 
For with all his limitations, and in the absence (as it 
turned out) of any particular flair for the business of 
exploring, he did always keep his goal in front of him, 
and he did succeed in doing just those things which so 
many of us have longed to do and have not had the 
pluck even to attempt. 

It is difficult to see how there can be a dull page in 
this book, even in the hands of the clumsiest editor. 
For, except in the first few chapters, where I have 
endeavoured to rewrite a part of Dampier’s life which 
has never been fully dealt with before, editing is really 
all that has been required. Dampier always thought 
his story more important than himself — ^he says so, over 
and over again — ^and his present biographer very humbly 
agrees. I have therefore put the story first and left 
the man to take care of himself. It is the method he 
would have preferred. The bare facts of his amazing 
career make the best commentary on his character. And 
the story itself is such a good one, so prodigal of incident, 
so brightly coloured with effects of light and shade, 
seen in every part of the globe, that it is hard to believe 
it can have been made to appear uninteresting. 



LLIAM DAMPIER was born in the 
village of East Coker, near Yeovil, 
in Somersetshire, in the year 165-, 
but there, immediately, our troubles 

There is a certain prejudice nowa- 
days against the discussion of such 
things as dates and birthdays. They 
are regarded as part of the dismal paraphernalia of 
Professor Dry-as-dust, as repulsive and inexplicable to 
the general public as footnotes, or even genealogical 
tables. Yet history is truly described in the dictionary 
as “ a narration of facts,” and we know very well in our 
hearts that all the fun and romance of it are gone unless 
we can be sure that it is accurate. Truth usually makes 
a better story than fiction. To tell any audience that 
the anecdote you are about to relate happens to be a 
true one is the surest way of gaining attention. But we 
shall not get that full flavour of the true story, which 
gives it its peculiar and delightful character, unless we 
are certain that it is true. In short, if we are going 
to mention the date of Dampier’s birth at all, we might 
as well get it right. 

Every authority that I have consulted gives 1652 as 
the year. There seems to be good reason to suppose 
that the correct date is 1651. If it may be said without 


offence, the biographers have apparently followed one 
another blindly in a sort of game of “ Follow-my-leader,” 
quoting a date which probably has its origin in one or 
other of the brief biographical sketches which appeared 
in the course of the eighteenth century. Our real 
authorities are but two — Dampier’s own reference to the 
subject, in the second volume of his F oyages ; and the 
parish register of the village of East Coker. Dampier 
was one of the most modest explorers that ever sailed 
the seas, and his own description of his early days is 
characteristically brief. His statement of his age at the 
beginning of one of his early voyages is useful, but does 
not enable us to decide definitely as between 1652 and 
1651, in fixing the year of his birth. 

The parish register of East Coker, on the other hand, 
is as fascinating and eloquent a work as it has ever been 
my good fortune to read. And it has, of course, the 
virtue of precision. Our immediate concern is with the 
baptisms, and of these we have to decide between two 
entries : September 5th, 1651, William Dampier, son 
of George and Ann ; and June 8th, 1652, William 
Dampier, son of William and Joan. It has been assumed, 
on I know not what grounds, that the latter is our man. 
But Dampier, in his writings, makes allusion to his 
“ brothers ” at East Coker, and also to his “ brother,” 
and in later life he refers frequently to his “ brother 
George.” Now William, the son of William and Joan, 
had no brothers, according to the register ; whereas 
William, the son of George and Ann, had a brother 
(only one, it is true) born in 1648, whose name was 
George. Dampier mentions that when he was home 
from his earlier voyages he would stay with his family 
(once he says his “ friends ”) in East Coker, and it is 
reasonable to suppose that the family would be repre- 
sented by this George, who, as the elder brother, would 
naturally have carried on the farm which the Dampiers 



held from the local squire, Colonel Helyar — of whom 
more hereafter. It is true that George is the only 
brother mentioned in the register. It is true, too, that 
we find no record of the death of George the elder, and 
that the death of Ann (his “ widow ”) took place in 
October, 1665, and not in 1668, the year mentioned 
by Sir J. K. Laughton (in the Dictionary of National 
Biography), Smyth and others as that in which Dampier’s 
mother died. I suggest, however, that these authorities 
are wrong. As a matter of fact, there is no record at 
East Coker of the death of any Dampier, male or female, 
in 1668. William, the son of George and Ann, had at 
any rate one brother (which is more than we can say 
for the rival), and of the right name too ; and the fact 
that Ann, at her death, was referred to as a “ widow ” 
proves that the elder George was already dead, and fits 
in with Dampier’s statement in his Voyages that his 
parents died in his youth. On the face of it, therefore, 
the evidence of the parish register favours the George- 
Ann parentage of 1651. 

There is only one thing more to say about this parish 
register. The baptisms we are concerned with were 
not, of course, performed by the regular Church of 
England parson of the parish, but by some Ihiritan 
interloper of the Commonwealth period — in point of fact 
by one Henry Cackney, if I read his signature aright. 
Henry seems to have been a man of character, and it is 
amusing to note the dramatic effect of his entry upon 
the register. About a year after the execution of King 
Charles I, the small, neat, educated handwriting of the 
vicar, the Reverend Richard Gore, suddenly disappears, 
and we get in its place a bold scrawl, sprawling all over 
the pages. The entries become hurried, incomplete, not 
always even in chronological order. After October 20th, 
1653, there occurs the following memorandum : “ The 
Old Register Eooke of East Coker was fild of names in 


the yeare of our Lord God 1 654 and a nother made that 
same yeare by me Henry Cackney. Anno Dom. 1 654.” 
By then, unfortunately, the damage had been done, so 
far as the Dampiers are concerned. For it is precisely 
in 1652 (the commonly accepted year of our William’s 
birth) that we find half a page that has apparently been 
trampled on, or rubbed over with a fiat iron, and is almost 
illegible. It would perhaps be unfair to blame the 
God-fearing Henry personally for this ; but, politics and 
religion apart, I could wish that another memorandum 
which follows closely after it had come only ten years 
sooner. It reads : “ Memorandum that Mr. Richard 
Gore Vicar of Coker did reade the Articles of the Church 
of England on the twentieth day of October Anno 
Domini 1661.” Thereafter we have only Mr. Gore’s 
careful script.^ But in the meantime — and this is im- 
portant for our purpose — it is to be noted that William 
Dampier, the son of George and Ann, who was born in 
1651, might very well have had another brother born 
in the period covered by the illegible page of 1652 ; 
whereas this is impossible in the case of William, the 
son of William and Joan, since he himself was born in 
June of that same year. I therefore conclude that 
William Dampier, the explorer, was baptized at East 
Coker on the 5th September 1651, being the son of 
George Dampier and Ann, his wife.^ 

^ It is fair to add that a little later, between 1668 and 1678, there 
is a blank of ten years, the intervening space being occupied by a clumsy 
drawing of a man and some horses and cows, apparently executed by an 
irreverently-minded child. But Mr. Richard Gore was dead by then. 
His dissenting rival, Cackney, had died as early as 1664 ; the triumph 
of the malignants ” at the Restoration was evidently too much for 

2 As to her being his wife there is, happily, no doubt. “ From his 
wife,’’ says the register proudly. Alas, that it should be thought a 
matter for boasting ! — but the most casual glance at this village record 
shows the reason why. 

1 + 


East Coker is an altogether charming village, and 
Dampier must often have seen it (as I did) on a bright 
spring morning, with its lilac trees blossoming into every 
shade of mauve and violet round the old, grey, thatched 
cottages. Many, if not most, of the present houses 
must have been standing in Dampier’s time. In the 
church a modern brass now commemorates his exploits ; 
but little else is altered, and over the old oak door there 
is still a hatchment with the Royal Arms, set up in 1 660 
to celebrate the Restoration, which must, when its 
colours were bright and new, have been an object of 
delight to his childish eyes. They have few traditions 
of him in the village : after all, he was there only for 
comparatively brief periods, and his family has long 
since disappeared. But they will show you the house 
where he is said to have been born — Hymerford House, 
a typical mediaeval building of perhaps the fifteenth 
century, of which the. great hall and the kitchens beyond 
the screen at one end have been interfered with scarcely 
at all. _ As usually happens, the hall has been divided 
inside into two stories, so that the tops of the old 
mullioned windows now give light to the passages on 
the floor above ; but the outside of the house is still so 
mellow and old and English that it is difficult to imagine 
even the wildest boy wanting to run away from it to sea. 
Hymerford House is a farm-house now (they called it 
Bridge Farm till a year or two ago, but the present 
occupant has reverted to the older name), and if Dampier 
was born there it must have served the same purpose in 
1651, for his father was a tenant farmer — that we know. 
The Dampiers (or, as it was occasionally written, 
Dampeeries) seem to have been fairly substantial folk ; 
but what was the size and distribution of the family, 
and what became of them — ^whether, for instance, that 
Dr. Dampier who was promoted by George III to the 
Deanery of Rochester in 178a, and whose son was made 



Bishop of Ely, came originally from East Coker, I am 
unable to say. Nor does it matter much. 

When young William Dampier reached school age, 
he suffered the fate of most small boys. His bio- 
graphers have assumed that he was put to school at 
Yeovil ; but there is a grammar school of an ancient 
foundation at the neighbouring Crewkerne, and it is at 
least equally likely that he was sent there. We do not 
know. All the evidence that we possess is contained 
in his own brief and almost apologetic reference to his 
schooldays referred to above. In it he says : “ My 
friends did not originally design me for the sea, but 
bred me at school till I came to years fit for a trade. 
But upon the death of my father and mother, they who 
had the disposal of me took other measures ; and having 
remov’d me from the Latine School to learn Writing 
and Arithmetick, they soon after placed me with a 
Master of a Ship at Weymouth, complying with the 
inclinations I had very early of seeing the World.” 

It will be observed that his guardians, whoever they 
were, only took the rather strong step of sending him 
to sea, instead of to a trade, in compliance with his own 
wishes. It is a plain case of a schoolboy’s dream of 
travel and adventure — not more romantic, nor less so, 
than a thousand others. 

With this Weymouth skipper, young Dampier made 
a short voyage to France. He returned with his appetite 
for travel considerably stimulated, and almost immedi- 
ately set out again upon his first long voyage — a trip 
to Newfoundland. He was now, as he tells us, “ about 
eighteen years of age,” his parents had been dead for 
years, and he was feeling well able to look after himself. 
Yet the voyage to Newfoundland was a failure. It 
occupied the whole of one summer. But Dampier was 
so horribly “ pinched ” by the rigour of that cold climate 
that he swore that he would never sail so far North 



again — and he kept his word. Indeed it came near to 
cooling his ardour for travel altogether. He returned 
to his friends at East Coker — no doubt to his brother 
George, who would now be a man of twenty-one or 
twenty-two — and he tells us of this with an air of finality 
which suggests that he fully intended to stay there. 

But he could not sit quiet ; the thing was in his 
blood ; and presently he began to pay flitting visits to 
London. And there, of course — since the whole world 
is, happily, not so cold as Newfoundland — he presently 
got an offer of what he calls a “ warm voyage ” (and a 
long one too) “ both which I always desired,” and was 
off to sea again. 

This time he entered himself aboard an outward- 
bound East Indiaman, the “ John and Martha ” of 
London (Captain Earning), and was employed before 
the mast — ^for his apprenticeship days were over, and he 
was now an able seaman. Of this third voyage, like 
the first and second, we know very little. Dampicr’s 
East Indiaman would be a vessel of perhaps six hundred 
tons burthen.’- She would carry a crew of about two 
hundred men and would be heavily armed. It is true 
that merchantmen of this period enjoyed a security at 
sea such as the Elizabethans had never known. Crom- 
well had suppressed the Algerian pirates (after cutting 
off the King’s head for trying to raise “ ship money " 
for the same purpose !), and had made the Mediter- 
ranean safe for our shipping. I'he capture of Jamaica 
had given our trade a fillip in the West. Spain had her 
tail down ; the Portuguese were no longer dangerous 
in India and the East. But, alas, we live in an envious 

^ Fifty years before this date, the East India merchants had supplied 
themselves with a new fleet of four ships of 650, 500, 300 and zoo tons 
respectively. Some of these may still have been afloat when Dampicr 
went to sea ; in any case, they give a rough clue to the probable tonnage 
of the “ John and Martha.” 


world ! No sooner had our ancestors got rid of the 
rivalry of the “ cruel Spaniard ” and the “ treacherous 
Portingall ” than another trade competitor arrived upon 
the scene — ^the equally cruel (and, if we may believe 
the English chroniclers, equally treacherous) “ Hol- 
lander.” The first Dutch war broke out in the year 
after Dampier’s birth. Before he died he was to see 
the Dutch, in their turn, fall behind in the race, and 
become our allies against our next hated rival, France. 

In the meantime, however, he was brought up in an 
anti-Dutch atmosphere. When he sailed on the “ John 
and Martha ” for the Dutch Spice Islands, there were 
old sailormen in the inns of Weymouth and London 
who could remember the so-called “ Massacre ” of 
Amboina in 1623, when the Dutch arrested all the 
Englishmen at one of the East India Company’s fac- 
tories, tortured them cruelly, and upon the unwilling 
evidence thus obtained publicly executed ten of them 
for conspiracy, with an indecent haste and a disregard 
of justice which English seamen would not easily forget. 
Bickerings had continued ever since, whether the two 
nations happened to be officially at war or at peace. 
Hence the guns on board the “ John and Martha.” 

Captain Earning, on his owners’ instructions, sailed 
direct for the port of Bantam, in the Dutch island of 
Java. He made a good passage, and stayed at Bantam 
for about two months, during which time he and his 
crew managed to keep out of trouble with the local 
authorities. He returned to England in little over a 
year, having called at only two intermediate ports — St. 
lago in the Cape Verde Islands on the way out, and 
Ascension Island on the return journey. Dampier con- 
fesses regretfully that he kept no journal of this voyage, 
and there will be few of his readers to-day who do not 
share that regret. On the other hand, he learnt a great 
deal about practical navigation, a subject in which he 


William dampier 

was eventually to excel all his contemjjoraries. How 
a seaman serving before the mast found time and oppor- 
tunity for such studies is not easy to see ; but it is one 
of the most striking features of Dampier’s career that 
he never ceased to “ improve himself” in this way — not 
even when serving among the buccaneers. 

Dampier returned to England at a somewhat critical 
moment in his country’s history. He says: “We 
arrived at Plymouth about two months before Sir Robert 
Holmes went out to fall upon the Dutch Smyrna fleet.” 
This dates his arrival ; because Holmes set sail on that 
indefensible ^ and, as it turned out, unsuccessful raid on 
the 23rd March 167a. The “John and Martha” 
must therefore have arrived about February. Dampier 
went home to East Coker, and stayed with his brother 
George, who was probably still at Hymerford House. 
He remained there taking his ease, watching the lilac 
trees bloom and fade, till spring turned to summer, and 
autumn to winter, by which time, as he tells us, he was 
once more “ weary of staying a-shore.” But, when he 
began looking out for another ship, he found the situa- 
tion altogether altered. The Second Dutch War had 
broken out — not upon the declaration of the Dutch, as 
one might have expected after Holmes’s exploit, hut 
upon that of the King of England — and the rival fleets 
were preparing to put to sea. For a young man of 
twenty-one in search of adventure there seemed only 
one course to pursue, and Dampier took it. He “ listed,” 
as he calls it, on one of the King’s ships, the “ Royal 
Prince,” commanded by Sir Edward Spragge. 

It is necessary here to say a word about the naval 
situation. The great battle of Sole Bay (or Southwold) 
between the English and French on the one side and 
the Dutch on the other, had been fought in the previous 
summer while Dampier was still resting on his brother’s 
The two countries were still officially at peace. 


farm. The Duke of York (afterwards James II), who 
commanded the allied fleet, had shown creditable sea- 
manship, and was not responsible for the indecisive 
result. For that the blame must rest chiefly upon the 
French, whose Admiral, D’Estr^es, went off on a different 
tack at the critical moment, thus separating the allies’ 
fleet, and then allowed himself to be “ held ” by a small 
Dutch detachment while the main battle was being 
fought between the British and Dutch. His conduct in 
the affair gave rise to the strong suspicion that he was 
under orders from Paris not to do more than he could 
help to assist a nominal ally in whom the French 
Grovernment already began to perceive a future enemy. 
But between Sole Bay and the renewal of fighting in the 
following year, the Test Act had been passed, and the 
Duke of York had been obliged to give up his com- 
mand — ^not because he was incompetent, but simply 
because he was a Roman Catholic. Rupert had taken 
his place, amid loud popular cheers for “ the Protestant 
Prince.” Rupert was the more experienced naval com- 
mander of the two, but in the forthcoming operations 
he certainly did no better than the Duke, and in par- 
ticular showed little of that dash which characterized his 
cavalry tactics on land. 

The French fleet, which was preparing to join ours, 
was still commanded by D’Estr^es, in spite of (or as a 
reward for) his conduct at Sole Bay. The great De 
Ruyter again commanded the Dutch. On shore in 
Holland there had been changes. The two De Witts, 
the Republican leaders, had been murdered, and the 
Prince of Orange (afterwards William III of England) 
was now Captain-General and Admiral of the United 
Provinces, which gave him the supreme direction of the 
war. Happily for Holland, however, he did not take 
from De Ruyter the command of the fleet. Finally, 
there was a force of 6000 English troops at Yarmouth, 



waiting to be embarked for Holland, if wc should succeed 
in eliminating De Ruyter’s ships. 

De Ruyter had about fifty-five ships of the line, as 
against fifty-four English and twenty-seven French. In 
these circumstances, he adopted a policy which may be 
described as one of active defence. It was decided that 
the Dutch fleet “ should be posted in the passage of 
Schooneveldt, or a little farther south towards Ostend, 
to observe the enemy, and if attacked, or seeing the 
enemy’s fleet disposed to make a descent upon the shores 
of the United Provinces, should resist vigorously by 
opposing his designs and destroying his ships.” ^ This 
was the Dutch strategy. The English policy, on the 
other hand, may be described, in the words of a modern 
statesman, as that of “ digging them out like rats.” 

But first, at the end of April, before he finally settled 
down to the defensive, De Ruyter made a spirited sally, 
with the object of blocking the mouth of the Thames by 
sinking ships in the fairway. On May and, 1673, 
was off the Thames, with his “ sinkers ” (as the English 
called them) ready to put his plan into operation. But 
a thick fog kept him inactive, and when it suddenly 
lifted on May 4th, he saw Rupert’s fleet waiting for 
him, lying off the Middle Ground. De Ruyter at once 
refused action, and sailed back to Holland with his 
“sinkers.” On the 20th May, Rupert followed 

Dampier, as we have seen, was serving on board the 
“ Royal Prince.” We are not to visualize one of those 
clumsy “ overbuilt ” Elizabethan warships. Naval archi- 
tecture had greatly improved since Charles I’s “ Royal 
Sovereign ” (built for him in 1637 by Phineas Pett) had 
inaugurated a new and better school of ship construc- 
tion. The Dutch, and afterwards the French, were, 
generally speaking, our equals in design ; but the 
' Brandt : Life of De Ruyter, quoted by Mahan. 


superiority of English oak over other European timbers, 
and the still more marked superiority of English sea- 
men, gave us two enormous advantages. Phineas Pett, 
when he built the old “Prince Royal” in i6io, had 
been the first to abandon the high beak, or prow, and 
the square buttock, or tuck. At the end of the seven- 
teenth century, the Dutch and French still had square 
tucks, but in English ships they were rounded. The 
raised stern, which gave to Elizabethan warships an 
appearance of toppling forward on their noses, was 
reduced in height by English, Dutch and French de- 
signers alike, and was built in such a way as to conform 
with the general sweep of the ship’s lines. It was no 
longer (nor was the forecastle) an irrelevant excrescence 
upon the deck of the ship. Indeed, the general appear- 
ance of a warship of 1673 was surprisingly like that of 
one of Nelson’s vessels, and surprisingly different from 

The men, happily, were the same. Admiral Mahan 
quotes the remark of a French critic, Chabaud-Arnault, 
who writes that “ the undeniable superiority of Ruyter 
in experience and genius could not compensate for the 
weakness or incapacity of part of the Dutch officers and 
the manifest inferiority of the men under their orders.” 
Yet the amazing fact is that a large proportion — probably 
most — of the English crews were composed of pressed 
men. The captain of the “ Royal Prince ” found it as 
difficult to collect his crew as Nelson did on the 
“ Victory ” ! Volunteers like Dampier were probably in 
a minority. Pepys tells us that in 1665, when the Fleet 
was in harbour, the Duke of York had to send for 
soldiers “ to go keep pressmen on board our ships.” 
He twice mentions the “ mutinous ” spirit of the men, 
which is not surprising when we consider how often the 
pay of these poor conscripts was in arrears. Pepys, as 
an Admiralty official, sometimes found it impossible to 



work at his office, “ because of the horrible crowd and 
lamentable moan of the poor seamen, that lie starving 
on the streets for lack of money, which do trouble and 
perplex me to the heart ; and more at noon, when we 
were to go through them, for then above a whole hundred 
of them followed us, some cursing, some swearing, some 
praying to us.” Dampier, however, had made his bed, 
and there is nothing in his writings to show that he did 
not willingly lie upon it. 

His immediate commander. Sir Edward Spragge, of 
the “ Royal Prince,” was quite a character in his way. 
A turbulent, intriguing, hard-living, recklessly courage- 
ous leader of the Cavalier type, his personality seems to 
have made a considerable impression upon all who came 
into contact with him. Pepys met him at dinner at Sir 
William Penn’s, and found him “ a meriy man that sang 
a pleasant song pleasantly.” Pepys would forgive much 
to a boon companion who could also sing ; but unfor- 
tunately Spragge was Prince Rupert’s favourite, and 
used his influence there with characteristic indiscretion ; 
whereas Pepys was always a Duke’s man. In the end, 
the diarist came to distrust Spragge’s judgment, and 
even his honesty. It is clear, however, that he was a 
very popular commander on board the ” Royal Prince.” ^ 

Rupert, then, followed De Ruyter, to the Dutch coast, 
where he was sheltering in the Schooneveldt. The idea 
was to send forward a detached squadron, with fire ships, 
to attempt to draw him out. It was a dangerous game 
to play with De Ruyter. Choosing his moment, he 
sallied out vigorously, and Rupert’s leading squadron 
was rather badly mauled. De Ruyter withdrew before 
the main body could come up. It is amusing to note 
that on this occasion the French, under D’Estr^es, were 

^ It is a coincidence, perhaps worth noting, that the previous com- 
mander of the “ Royal Prince ” was Pepys’s friend. Lord Sandwich, 
who was killed on board of her at Sole Bay. 


placed in the centre so that they could not sheer ofF, 
and that, finding themselves in this position, they stoutly 
resisted the Dutch attack. After De Ruyter’s retire- 
ment, Rupert held his ground and maintained a blockade 
of the Dutch coast. It appears that Spragge disapproved 
of the position of the allied fleet, and wanted the Prince 
to alter it, but Rupert refused. On June 4th De Ruyter 
made another sally. Again he was too weak to press 
home his attack ; but this time he did enough damage 
to cause Rupert to return to England to refit. Another 
reason for the return may have been that the transports 
were not yet ready for the troops on shore. 

At any rate, the Fleet did not put to sea again till 
July 22nd. Once more they made for the coast of 
Holland, and about August 9th Dampier was taken ill, 
and was “ put on board a hospital ship.” The very 
fact that there were hospital ships in attendance on the 
Fleet seems to show that Pepys’s well-known reference 
to “ this confounded business ” of what to do with the 
wounded did not indicate quite such a state of unpre- 
paredness as might be supposed. Dampier was well 
out of the ensuing engagement, commonly known as 
the Battle of the Texel. He tells us, however, that he 
watched it from the deck of the hospital ship. 

Seen thus, at a safe distance, it must have been a fine 
and inspiring sight. The whole panorama of the battle, 
just as Dampier saw it, may be studied in the large 
coloured maps — or rather pictures — done by contempo- 
rary artists, and now in the possession of the Earl of 
Dartmouth. Reproductions of these spirited works of 
art, with Sir Julian Corbett’s editorial notes, are to be 
found in the British Museum.^ The battle began about 

^ Sir Julian Corbett thinks that these drawings are “ designs prepared 
by a tapestry draughtsman from bird’s-eye views specially drawn by 
William Van der Velde from his original sketches, after they had been 
corrected bj^ officers who were present at the engagement.” Some pf 



seven or eight in the morning of August i ith. As the 
hostile fleets approached each other, it was seen that 
Tromp, who commanded the Dutch right, was making 
a dead set at Spragge, who, as Admiral of the Blue, was 
in command of the English left, or rear. They were 
old enemies, having been “ opposite numbers ” before 
now. Accordingly when Spragge saw Tromp heading 
for him, he promptly hove to. He has been severely 
criticized for this action, the effect of which, of course, 
was to hold back the Blue Squadron and thus divide 
the English Fleet in two. (D’Estrtlcs, it should be 
added, was far on ahead with the extreme right and 
managed once more to keep out of the fighting alto- 
gether !) Spragge’s officers in their report of the battle 
after his death, offered a number of technical (and not 
very convincing) reasons for his action ; but there seems 
to be no doubt that he waited for Tromp in a purely 
sporting spirit. Among the last words that he wrote in 
his journal on the night before the battle were : “ Tromp 
is now in the rear (or right) ... he will, I hope, fall 
to my share in the Blue Squadron to-morrow.” He 
always referred to Tromp as his “ consort.” Anyhow, 
the result of his action was that a long and stationary 
duel took place between the ” Royal Prince ” and 
Tromp, with the other vessels of their respective 
squadrons joining in ; while the vans, under Rupert 
and De Ruyter, gradually drew farther and farther away. 
And it was probably this separation of the battle into 
two parts, even more than the defection of the French, 
which deprived Rupert of victory. 

Dampier must have watched the duel with consider- 
able excitement from the decks of his hospital ship. It 
was an Homeric contest (indeed it would technically, 
perhaps, have been better placed in the Iliad than in’ a 

them ^0 depict the two earlier sea-fights (referred to above) at which 
Dampier was present. 



scientific modern sea-fight) and Dampier’s shipmates 
seem to have done well. “ For three hours (says an 
eye-witness) they lay braving one another with their 
topsails to the mast : Tromp was well seconded by 
several stout ships, from whence a gun was not fired at 
anybody but Sir Edward (i.e. his ship) as long as they 
could bring any to bear.” In the end, the “ Royal 
Prince ” was completely disabled, and Tromp’s “ Golden 
Lion ” was in little better case. In the Dartmouth 
pictures, we see them both drifting out of the fighting 
line, like birds with broken wings. Spragge made a 
desperate attempt to get back at Tromp about 10 a.m., 
but just then both his main mast and mizzen went by the 
board ; and, seeing that nothing could be done with 
the shattered “ Royal Prince,” he shifted his flag to the 
” St. George ” and afterwards to the “ Michael.” Tromp 
and several other Dutchmen then surrounded the “ Royal 
Prince,” like vultures round a corpse ; but Dampier’s 
shipmates again put up a great fight (“ few finer defences 
of a disabled ship are on record,” says Sir Julian 
Corbett) ; and presently Vice-Admiral Kempthorn, and 
after him Lord Ossory, intervened with their divisions 
to save the “ Royal Prince ” from capture. Eventually, 
in the evening, she was -safely towed out of the 

Spragge was killed about 7 p.m., while shifting his 
flag yet again — ^this time to the “ Royal Charles.” He 
had the flag with him in a small boat, and when they 
pointed out to him that the Dutch would probably see 
it, and that it would be safer to go on board a frigate, 
he “ scorned to be governed by arguments of fear.” 
The Dutch did see it. They opened fire on the boat, 
and sank it ; and when the gallant Spragge was picked 
up out of the water he was found to be dead. We are 
told that he could not swim ; but his lieutenant and 
coxswain had held him up by the arms, and it is not 



dear whether his death was due to drowning or the 
enemy’s fire. 

So ended this confused and unsatisfactory Battle of 
the Texel, in which neither side lost a single ship and 
both claimed the victory. Dampier was put ashore at 
Harwich, with the rest of the sick and wounded, and 
“ having languished a great while ” in hospital, he went 
home once again to his brother to recover his health. 



BOUT this time — either just before or 
just after William Dampier’s return 
from the Dutch War — ^his elder brother 
George moved from East Coker to a 
neighbouring estate, presumably that 
“ Porton, near Breadport, Dorset ” 
which is mentioned as George’s place 
of residence in William’s will. It was 
at Porton, I think, not at East Coker, that Dampier 
spent most, if not all, of his sick leave. He now decided 
not to return to the Navy. A treaty of peace, in which 
the Dutch conceded most of the English demands, was 
signed in 1674 ; but months before that it became 
apparent that all was over except the shouting, both 
nations being heartily sick of the war. Moreover 
Dampier had never quite “ got the hang ” of naval ways 
and naval discipline, as he himself admitted in after 
years, when he came to command a king’s ship. He 
was not an easy man to place, as we shall presently 
discover ; for the fact is that he was equally out of his 
element in a king’s ship and in the noisy fo’c’sle of a 

Dampier, however, was rapidly recovering his health ; 
and “ with my health I recovered my old inclination for 
the Sea.” In fact, the South was calling, and he began 
to look round for another “ warm voyage.” On this 
occasion there was no need to visit London. He got 

in touch with a “ neighbouring gentleman,” Colonel 




Helyar, of East Coker, his father’s old landlord Colonel 
Helyar happened to be interested in the West Indies. 
He owned property there, and he seems to have imported 
negro servants into East Coker, for a “ black-a-moor ” 
of his is recorded as having been baptized in the parish 
church in the year of Dampier’s birth. He had taken a 
fancy to young William, and now came forward with 
what the latter calls “ a reasonable offer ” to go and 
manage a plantation of his in Jamaica, under one Mr. 
Whalley. Dampier was now twenty-two years of age ; 
he had never been in the West Indies ; and he needed 
no persuasion. He immediately booked his passage with 
Captain Kent, in the “ Content ” of London, and sailed 
from the River Thames “ in the beginning of the year 
1674”— by which he means March or April 2 — thus 
embarking with a good heart upon his fifth voyage. One 
clause in his agreement with Captain Kent throws an 
interesting light upon the evils of the system of deporting 
criminals to Jamaica for forced labour. To avoid the 
danger of being “ trepaned,” as he calls it, and sold as a 
slave, Dampier agreed with Captain Kent to work his 
passage out as a seaman, though, in view of the employ- 
ment he was going to, he could doubtless have paid his 
fare. At the same time, he was careful to get the 
captain s written agreement to discharge him formally 
after he had landed. ■' 

The “ Content ” met with favourable winds from the 
start, and “ went merrily along ” until they had put the 
Atlantic behind them, and came in sight of Barbadoes. 
It would appear, however, that the passengers on board 
were but a mean-spirited crowd. When they came in 
sight of the first island, the Captain made them a sporting 

1 The Helyars c^tinued as Lords of the Manor at East Coker down 
® “ 1 674” is O.S. 


offer. The place was not included in his itinerary, he 
said, but it was a long time since they had seen land ; 
and if they would club together and pay the port charges, 
he would anchor in the roads, and remain there “ whilst 
they got refreshment ” ashore. But he found them — 
wealthy merchants for the most part — “ not caring to 
part with their money ” ; and so bore away for Jamaica. 

It is about now that we realize that "Dampier has 
begun to keep that famous “journal ” of his, upon which 
all his subsequent writings were based. He delights in 
describing every detail of the voyage, and delights us 
no less by his descriptions. Sailing from Barbadoes, the 
“ Content ” passed between the islands of St. Lucia and 
St. Vincent, so that they came near enough to observe 
smoke rising from among the trees, and sent a boat 
ashore to investigate. Presently the boat returned, 
loaded with plantains, bananas, pineapples and sugar- 
cane which the sailors had purchased from the natives. 
They were accompanied, too, by a canoe containing three 
or four Indians ; and thus Dampier, leaning eagerly 
over the bulwarks, made his first acquaintance with these 
harmless folk, whom he was to know so well in later 
years. Characteristically he launches out into a lively 
description of the Carib Indians, who love “ to rove on 
the sea in Periagoes or large Canoes, moving from one 
island to another according to the season of the year.” 
He explains that the British occupation had driven them 
out of Barbadoes into the lesser islands not yet settled 
by Europeans. But even St. Lucia was in 1674 “ often 
visited by the English ” for the sake of its valuable 

These particular natives had very little to say. Appa- 
rently they spoke no English. But they frequently 
repeated the name “ Captain Warner ” and “ seemed to 
be in some disquiet about him.” Dampier did not 
understand their meaning at the time ; but later he 



heard a remarkable and tragic little story of life in those 
far-oIF seas, which he has happily preserved for us in 
his journal. I give it in his own words : 

“ This Captain Warner whom they mentioned, was 
born at Antego [Antigua], one of our English islands, 
and the son of Governor Warner, by an Indian woman, 
and bred up by his father in the English manner ; he 
learned the English language [? Indian] also of his 
Mother ; but being grown up and finding himself 
despised by his English kindred, he forsook his Father’s 
House, got away to St. Lucia, and there liv’d among 
the Caribbe Indians, his Relations by the Mother’s side ; 
Where conforming himself to their customs he became 
one of their Captains, and roved from one Island to 
another, as they did. About this time the Caribbes had 
done some spoil on our English Plantations at Antego : 
and therefore Governor Warner’s Son by his Wife took 
a Party of Men and went to suppress those Indians ; 
and came to the place where his Brother, the Indian 
Warrior, lived. Great seeming joy was there at their 
meeting ; but how far it was real the Event shewed ; 
for the English Warner providing plenty of liquor, and 
inviting his half-brother to be merry with him, in the 
midst of his Entertainment ordered his IVIen upon a 
signal given to Murder him and all his Indians ; which 
was accordingly performed. The reason of this inhuman 
Action is diversely reported ; some say that this Indian 
Warner committed all the spoil that was done to the 
English ; and therefore for that reason his Brother killed 
him and his men. Others that he was a great Friend 
to the English, and would not suffer his men to hurt 
them, but did all that lay in his power to draw them to 
an amicable commerce ; and that his Brother killed him 
for ^at he was ashamed to be related to an Indian. 
But be it how it will, he was called in question for the 


Murder, and forced to come home to take his Tryal in 
England. Such perfidious doings as these, beside the 
Baseness of them, are great hindrances of our gaining an 
interest among the Indians.” 

It is both unpleasant and unexpected to find colour 
prejudice, which in general may be termed a modern 
growth, so strong among our seventeenth-century 
countrymen in the West Indies. But it is fair to add 
that such crimes as Warner’s were rare. Most English- 
men, whether honest traders or buccaneers, would have 
agreed with Dampier’s shrewd comment upon the incon- 
venience of such incidents from the business point of 
view. And we shall see, in following his adventures, 
that even the most reckless followers of Sharp and 
Sawkins fully appreciated the importance of keeping on 
good terms with the Indians, if only as the readiest means 
of obtaining guides, when they set out to attack some 
unsuspecting Spanish town. 

Leaving St. Lucia and St. Vincent behind him. 
Captain Kent set his course across the Caribbean Sea, 
until he fell in with the south coast of Hispaniola, or 
Haiti, along which he coasted until he reached Cape 
Tiburon, the westernmost point of the island. Here 
he sent men ashore to look for the orange groves reputed 
to be there ; but they returned without having round 
any. Dampier remarks, however, that at a later date 
he was able to satisfy himself of the existence of these 
orange groves. From Tiburon the “ Content ” made a 
quick passage to Jamaica, where their arrival at Port 
Royal must have been very welcome, since “ we brought 
the first news they had of peace with the Dutch.” 

Captain Kent kept his promise to Dampier, who was 
duly discharged, and went ashore with his papers all in 
order to meet his new employer, Mr. Whalley. They 
met in Spanish Town, probably at some picturesque old 



inn — alas, that so little of all this remains to-day ! — and 
later proceeded to Colonel Helyar’s estate which was 
situated near the south coast at a place called Sixteen- 
Mile-Walk. The journey had formerly been consider- 
ably longer, the road winding round the foot of “ a 
large mountain.” But one day that “ very ingenious 
gentleman,” Mr. Cary Helyar, the Colonel’s brother, 
had happened to take a walk that way with his dog, 
and perceiving the animal nosing about and apparently 
“ finding a hole to creep through the rock,” it occurred 
to him that perhaps there was “ a hollow passage ” 
through. Sure enough, there was ; and by blasting 
with gunpowder they made a passage large enough for 
a man on horseback to pass. 

Our wandering William boasts that he lived with 
Mr. Whalley at Sixteen-Mile-Walk for “ almost six 
months ” — a long time for him. He then entered the 
service of a certain Captain Homing, who owned a 
plantation at St. Ann’s on the opposite, or north, side of 
the island. It was a three-days’ journey from south to 
north, and at nights, especially when crossing the Blue 
Mountains, a ridge which divides the island from east 
to west, Dampier was very cold “ for lack of cloathes 
to cover me,” and must have reflected bitterly upon this 
unexpected result of his latest “ warm voyage.” Arriving 
at the new plantation, he found himself “ clearly out of 
my element there,” and as soon as he was able to see 
Captain Heming he obtained his discharge, and took 
passage on a coasting vessel back to Port Royal. 

Once more he was out of a job. But there was no 
unemployment problem in Jamaica in those days, and 
Dampier soon entered himself on board another coaster, 
commanded by a man who rejoiced in the name of 
Fishook, and with him went trading round the islands. 
We must remember that he still occupied quite a 
subordinate position ; he was apparently no more than 


an ordinary foremast hand ; but he remarks that “ by 
those coasting voyages I came acquainted with all the 
ports and bays about Jamaica . . . with the benefit of 
the land and sea-winds.” In fact, he has now definitely 
turned his attention to the study of pilotage and hydro- 
graphy. From now on we find his journal full of notes 
of a highly technical character, which could only have 
been recorded by a young sailor who had developed a 
genuine scientific interest in his profession. 

The English planters treated the crews of these coasters 
very “ civilly.” They allowed them to wander about 
their estates and help themselves to “ plantains, yams, 
potatoes, etc.,” upon which they seem to have subsisted 
almost entirely when on board their ships. But, at the 
end of “ six or seven months,” Dampier had again had 
enough of it. Perhaps the vegetarian diet began to pall. 
At any rate he now took a step which, as things turned 
out, had a decisive effect upon his career. He shipped 
with one Captain Hudsel (or Hudswell), who was bound 
from Port Royal to the Bay of Campeachy, to load 
logwood there. 

Now the logwood-cutters of Campeachy Bay had long 
been a thorn in the side of Spain. Most of them, in 
their spare time, were buccaneers, preying upon Spanish 
trade ; and Spain was annoyed to find that under the 
treaty of 1670 with England (which contained a uhi 
posseditis, or “ remain-in-the-place-you-already-possess ” 
clause) she had apparently legalized the position of these 
ex-buccaneers in Campeachy Bay. She therefore pro- 
ceeded to make things as unpleasant as she could for 
them, and the logwood-cutter’s life was by no means a 
bed of roses. He slept with his hanger and his pistol 
by his side, and he lost no opportunity of “ getting one 
back ” on the Spaniards. To join the logwood-cutters 
at this date was to enter a profession of doubtful legality, 
and one in which hard knocks might be expected on a 



3 + 

generous scale. It was, in fact, “no profession for a 
gentleman ” ; but our young adventurer was not to be 
deterred by that. He may have been one of Nature’s 
gentlemen ; so far as there is any meaning in the term, 
I think he was ; but he never in his life chose any 
course of action because he thought it was gentlemanlike. 

Dampier’s new vessel, a small ketch, carrying a crew 
of “ only six men and a boy,” sailed from Port Royal 
in August, 1675, in company with two even smaller 
ships. After coasting the southern shores of the island 
of Cuba, they entered the Gulf of Mexico, and approached 
the mainland of Yucatan (Dampier taking his usual 
careful notes all the way of everything he saw and heard), 
until they crossed the Bay of Campeachy, and cast 
anchor off the island of Triste (now known as Carmen 
Island), in the lagoon of Terminos, after a voyage of 
only fourteen days. Here were the headquarters of the 
logwood-cutters, and Dampier describes the country in 
some detail. He explains the methods by which the 
native fishermen caught tarpon — evidently as exciting a 
sport then as it is now — and he interrupts his narrative 
to tell us another amazing anecdote of life in those 
latitudes. It appears that the country in the neighbour- 
hood of Seisal on the Yucatan coast was particularly rich 
in game ; and, as it had very few human inhabitants, 
the English “ privateers ” (the tactful local name for 
buccaneers) from Jamaica were in the habit of landing 
there and roaming about hunting at their will. But one 
day a small party of six or seven men, who had come 
ashore in a canoe and got so far along the coast that 
their vessel was out of sight, were suddenly surprised by 
a detachment of Spanish soldiers from the neighbouring 
fort — a sleepy-looking, white building, drowsing among 
the palm-trees, which the English had been accustomed 
to ignore. 

These poor sailormen were dragged before the 



governor of the fort, who began his examination by 
demanding to know which of them was the captain. At 
this “ they all stood mute,” for the captain was not 
among them, and they were afraid to tell the Spaniards 
so, for fear of being hanged as “ straglers ” — ^which I 
take to mean masterless men, and therefore presumably 
pirates. On the other hand, none of them cared to 
assume the title of captain, since they had no papers 
with them, and it is characteristic of those times that 
no English captain ever dared to go ashore without 
carrying his commission in his pocket, for the protection 
both of himself and of his men. So there was an 
awkward pause. “ At last,” says Dampier, “ one John 
Hubock cocked up his little cropt hat, and told him 
that he was the Captain,” adding that he had inadver- 
tently left his commission on board. The Spaniards 
accepted this explanation — apparently their intentions 
were not so hostile as the English had supposed — ^and 
the joke was that from now on Hubock was treated 
with special honour, given handsome lodgings and 
captain’s food ; and when the whole party were marched 
overland to Campeachy town, a distance of about a 
hundred English miles, he was provided with a horse, 
while his indignant companions had to walk. At Cam- 
peachy he was “ frequently regaled with chocolate, etc.” 
and was then taken alone to interview the governor, 
upon whom the fellow’s native wit seems to have had 
some effect, for the whole party was presently able to 
return to Jamaica. Hubock was “ ever after called 
Captain Jack.” 

From Triste, Captain Hudsel sailed across the lagoon 
to One-Bush-Key, a landing-place on the mainland, 
which had acquired its name from the fact that there 
was only one “ little crooked tree ” growing on it. 
Dampier describes the landing as all covered with oyster 
shells, and adds that he never tasted better oysters any- 


where. He affirms that “ the mangrove-roots that grow 
by the sides of the creeks are loaden with them (/.<?. with 
oysters) ; and so are all the branches which hang in 
the water.” ^ 

At One-Bush-Key Captain Hudsel got in touch with 
the logwood-cutters, and hired from them a periago to 
bring the logwood on board. This was Dampier’s first 
acquaintance with that jovial confraternity, with whom 
he was afterwards to live for a period of nearly three 
years. Characteristically he at once made it his business 
to find out as much about them as he could. He 
frequendy visited them in the “ huts ” or shelters in 
which they lived, when “ I and those with me were 
always very kindly entertained by them with pork and 
pease, or beef and dough-boys.” There were about two 
hundred and fifty of these logwood-cutters, mostly 
Englishmen, who had settled themselves in the neigh- 
bourhood of One-Bush-Key. A large proportion of 
them were undoubtedly old buccaneers : former associ- 
ates of Morgan’s, perhaps, who, now that that redoubt- 
able leader had settled down and turned respectable as 
Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica,^ had taken to logwood- 
cutting, as being a dangerous, lawless and lucrative trade, 
and in that respect not entirely unlike their former 
profession. Others would be escaped “ servants,” or 
slaves, from the plantations, with a few independent 
adventurers of the Dampier type. They were a hard- 
living, hard-swearing crowd — in fact about as “ tough ” 
as their own logwood. 

The great value of this commodity had been dis- 
covered some years before by an Englishman, Captain 
James, who had taken a cargo of it back to England 
and sold it at a high figure. Since then the price had 

^ Here is a reasonable explanation of the Elizabethan legend, in which 
Raleigh, among others, was a firm believer, of oysters that “ grew ” on 
trees. See below, page 6i. 



risen to about ;^ioo a ton, with the result that a successful 
logwood-cutter might now expect to make his fortune 
in a few years — if he survived. There was, however, 
always that unhappy doubt. The wood, which was very 
hard and burned with a clear and lasting fire, only grew 
at its best in pestiferous and swampy places. As illus- 
trating the appalling hardships of the logwood-cutter’s 
life, Dampier remarks that when they tumbled out of 
their miserable beds of a morning (beds which were 
hermetically sealed within a close-fitting “ pavilion,” 
probably of sail-cloth, to keep out the mosquitoes), they 
would often step straight into two feet or more of water, 
and would remain in it all day, under the tropic sun, 
working at their heavy task of cutting and hauling wood. 
(For the season of the floods was the best time of year 
for their purpose.) They are described as vigorous, 
powerfully built men, and one can understand that they 
needed to be. When they required food, they hunted 
the wild cattle, which abounded on the mainland (as on 
many of the islands thereabouts), sometimes stalking the 
animals on the open savannahs, sometimes catching 
them at their drinking-places by the rivers and pursuing 
them across the water in canoes — a hazardous business, 
comments Dampier, if a bull chanced to turn at bay ! It 
was the usual plan to go hunting every Saturday, in order 
to provide themselves with beef for the following week. 

Amid such alternations of dangerous excitement and 
unremitting toil, and living in this perpetually humid 
atmosphere, it is not altogether surprising to hear that 
the logwood-cutters raised a thirst which the surrounding 
waters were far from satisfying. Indeed the reception 
accorded to visiting ships, and the terms upon which 
the valuable logwood was sold to them, were largely 
conditioned by the quantity of rum the skipper had 
brought with him and the generosity with which he 
dispensed it. A small local trader, such as Dampier 



had arrived in, would bring no money at all, but the 
captain, after standing drinks all round to establish a 
friendly atmosphere, would proceed to barter his rum in 
return for the logwood. When a full cargo of the latter 
had been obtained, the remainder of the rum^ would 
be sold for money to the thirsty woodsmen — in this case, 
in the form of punch, “ wherewith,” says Dampier, 
“ they grew frolicksome.” 

They must have been rather trying visitors on board 
ship, for it was apparently their practice to insist upon 
the firing of the ship’s guns every time they drank a 
health. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately). Captain 
Hudsel’s little vessel had no guns on board. “ We had 
none but small arms to fire,” confesses Dampier, “ and 
therefore the noise was not very great at a distance ; 
but on board the vessel we were loud enough till all our 
liquor was spent.” After that, of course, there was no 
more to be said ; and towards the end of September 
Captain Hudsel decided that it was time to make a 

So with one last parting cheer, and perhaps a last 
toast or two, and with much waving of hands and shout- 
ing of farewells, he up-anchored and put out into the 
lagoon, leaving Dampier’s new friends ashore, still carry- 
ing on their wild carouse which would probably last for 
days. Which practice, as Dampier’s Victorian bio- 
grapher 2 very properly remarks, “ in that ungenial climate 
was carrying imprudence and folly to the last pitch.” 

But Dampier, meantime, was thinking hard. He was, 
in fact, making up his mind to return to this wild place. 
It was not simply that the life attracted him. Love of 
adventure was indeed his ruling passion and was to 
take him into many even stranger places than this ; 

There were also some other despised and unspecified “ commodoties ” 
on board, but they were eyidendy of no account. 

* Smyth. 



but, except for that, he had little enough in common 
with the ex-buccaneers and other riff-raff who made up 
this strange community. He has told us himself that 
he “ did ever abhor drunkenness,” and though his 
detractors have tried to cast doubt on this pious pro- 
fession, it is clear that he was, on the whole, a “ steady,” 
temperate sort of man. But what he had plainly per- 
ceived at One-Bush-Key was, in the first place, a new 
opportunity of acquiring fresh “ experience,” and, in 
the second, to quote his own words, “ a great prospect 
of getting money here, if men would be but diligent 
and frugal.” 

In the meantime, however, he had to get back to 
Jamaica, and that was not to prove so easy as it seemed. 
Captain Hudsel was a singularly feckless commander. 
First he sighted two sail in the Bay of Campeachy, and, 
mistaking them for Englishmen from Jamaica, wanted 
to heave-to and try to get some liquor from them, his 
own having all been left behind at One-Bush-Key, and 
his crew again athirst. Just in time they discovered 
these ships to be Spaniards, and escaped with difficulty 
after a long chase. A fortnight later they were still in 
the Bay, struggling against adverse winds, for the ketch 
was a “ heavy sailer.” 

One night Dampier was on deck, it being his turn 
at the helm from 6 to 8 p.m. The night had that 
velvety warmth of the southern latitudes, the sky was 
purple overhead, and the stars were shining with the 
brightness of jewels, such as East Coker never saw. 
“ All our men were layn down on the deck and fallen 
asleep ” ; “ my Captain was just behind me on the 
quarter deck, fast asleep too.” Young Dampier, char- 
acteristically, was occupying his time in speculating upon 
the reason why the sea had suddenly become so smooth, 
and why the ship, which had been steering very badly, 
was now steering well. Indeed he had just been looking 



over the side, trying unsuccessfully to discover the cause. 
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, the ship struck, 
throwing our young adventurer flat upon his back. 
They were ashore on the Alacranes Islands ! It was, 
indeed, a liberal education for a budding navigator to 
go to sea with poor Captain Hudsel. 

Next morning they managed to get the ship off, and 
anchored among the islands, which Dampier visited, 
and describes with his usual care. There were oppor- 
tunities of hunting here, and Dampier tried to persuade 
his companions to salt down some of the flesh of birds 
and seals, which abounded ; but they were lazy, and 
refused. Sailing on again, they sighted the coast of 
Cuba (being then no less than two months out from 
Triste !) and shaped a course for Jamaica, but were 
driven back to Cuba again, and decided to land on the 
Island of Pines in order to obtain meat. This was 
always dangerous work ; for just over the way at Cape 
Corientes there was a Spanish garrison, the soldiers of 
which, being mostly “ mulatoes or some other sort of 
copper colour Indians,” possessed a large canoe, in 
which they were in the habit of sallying out and robbing 
harmless merchant ships, sometimes murdering the 
crews “ for fear of telling tales.” ^ 

The shore party from the ketch met no Spaniards, 
but neither did they meet with any game. Their whole 
bag consisted of a young swordfish, which was captured 
by the man whom they had left on the beach to look 
after their boat. Hungrier than ever, they departed 
from the Island of Pines, and immediately ran into a 
fierce gale, which continued for two days and left them — 
it is true — in the latitude of Jamaica, but without a 
mouthful of food on board. It was now a question of 

^ Dampier adds, with his usual fairness, that, of course, the Spanish 
“ merchants and gentry ” knew nothing of this — only the “ soldiers and 
rascality of the people.” 



whether to beat for Jamaica (in this terribly “ dull 
sailer ”) or to bear away before the wind for the South 
Keys. Dampier was for the former course, but he was 
out-voted, and thereupon “ turned into my cabin ” in a 
huff, declaring that they would all be starved. The 
incident is not without interest, as introducing us for 
the first time to the celebrated Dampier temper, which, 
in after years, was to form the subject of inqiiiry before 
an Admiralty court-martial. 

But all things come to an end, and this unlucky 
voyage was no exception to the rule. They reached 
Jamaica at last, and made harbour, literally with their 
tongues hanging out. The captain, who with all his 
faults seems to have been a man of generous instincts, 
immediately sent ashore for suitable refreshments, and 
invited them all to the cabin to drink a bowl of punch. 
Alas, there was yet one more stroke of ill fortune in 
store ! Two other skippers from neighbouring ships 
had been asked to join the festive gathering ; and one 
of these, lifting the bowl of punch in his hands, observed 
that he was under an oath to take only three draughts 
of liquor each day, and therefore liked them long ; and 
so quaffed the whole bowlful before anyone could stop 
him. Whereat, says Dampier, with admirable restraint, 
“ we were disappointed.” 

We perceive that he is a man who enjoys telling a 
funny story. Of the voyage in general he observes that 
probably no ship ever had so many misfortunes in 
coming out of the Bay, “ having first blundered over the 
Alcany (Alacranes) Riff, and then visited those islands ; 
from thence fell in among the Colorado shoals, after- 
ward making a trip to Grand Caymanes,” and so on. 
But “ in all these matters we got as much experience as 
if we had been sent on a design.” That is the secret — 
experience, experience ! As yet he has asked no more 
of life. 



OW this second, or return, visit of 
Dampier’s to the logwood-cutting 
community in Campeachy Bay, which 
I am about to relate, marks a turning- 
point in his career. It definitely 
classes him among the adventurers 
of that period — men who did not 
care much where they sought excite- 
ment and riches, so long as it was at the expense of the 
King of Spain ; nor how many laws they broke, if they 
were only Spanish laws. 

No doubt the Spanish claim to a monopoly in a trade 
which they themselves had done little to exploit was 
absurd, and would have been untenable in any age. The 
legal position was, in fact, rather complicated. Spain, 
as we have seen, since her treaty of peace with England, 
no longer claimed that the whole of the West Indies 
trade belonged to her alone. But in practice she stopped 
foreign trade whenever she could, and it was notorious 
that the local Spanish authorities were particularly down 
on the logwood-cutters. These latter had moved away 
from the inhabited parts of the coast to the lonely creeks 
round Terminos Lagoon precisely because it was unsafe 
to carry on their business anywhere within reach of a 
Spanish fort. And I am afraid that our William, when 
he deliberately returned to Campeachy, with visions of 
quickly acquired wealth before his eyes, had set his foot 



upon a slippery slope which, in the end, must land him 
inevitably upon the lawless deck of a buccaneer. 

Anyhow, one Captain Johnson, of New England, 
being bound from Jamaica to Campeachy, agreed to 
take Dampier with him as a passenger (rather a step-up 
in the world) ; and on this ship our hero embarked, 
with an elaborate outfit of hatchets and saws and machetes, 
his “ pavilion ” to sleep in, his gun, powder and shot, 
and all the other impedimenta of the logwood-cutter. 
Sailing from Jamaica about the middle of February, 1 676, 
they made a quick passage to the Terminos Lagoon, 
and Dampier “settled himself” in the west creek, on 
the west side of the lagoon, at a point about four leagues 
distant from One-Bush-Key. He did not at first set 
up on his own, but hired himself out under some of the 
old hands, to learn the trade from them. 

Among his very first notes on the surrounding country 
are references to the strained relations between the log- 
wood-cutters and the Spanish authorities. He observes 
that there was, near Campeachy Town, a large and 
valuable salt pond. The Spaniards used to make the 
local Indians rake this salt ashore during the “ kerning ” 
season, and pile it up in heaps. Then the Indians 
would go off home, leaving the Spaniards to collect the 
salt at their leisure. Which was “ jam ” for the 
Spaniards, of course, since, as Dampier says, “ I know 
of no other salt ponds on all the coast.” But the English 
logwood- cutters, on their voyages between Jamaica 
and Terminos, would not infrequently pay casual visits 
to this salt pond, when they would “ make bold to take 
and sell both the ships (which they found in harbour 
there) and the Indian sailors that belonged to them.” 
This, they explained, was “ by way of reprisal,” for 
alleged injuries received from the Spaniards. The 
Governors of Jamaica (including the virtuous Sir Henry 
Morgan !) of course “ knew nothing ” of it. But, says 



Dampier — ^and it is a point worth noting : . neither 

durst the Spaniards complain ; for at that time they 
used to take all the English ships they met with in 
these parts, not sparing even such as came laden with 
sugar from Jamaica and were bound for England ; 
especially if they had logwood aboard. This was done 
openly, for the ships were carried into the Havanna, 
there sold, and the men imprisoned without any redress.” 
In this connection I may quote the case of the unfor- 
tunate Captain Buckenham, related by Wafer,^ who had 
formerly sailed with him. About five years after the 
date we are now dealing with, Buckenham was captured 
by the Spaniards while on a voyage from Jamaica to 
Campeachy, for logwood, and was carried prisoner to 
Mexico City. There he was seen by one, Russell,^ 
another English prisoner, who afterwards escaped, and 
told Wafer the story : “ He told me (Wafer) he saw 
Capt. Buckenham, with a log chained to his leg and a 
basket at his back, crying bread about the streets for a 
baker his master. The Spaniards would never consent 
to the ransoming him, though he was a Gentleman who 
had friends of a considerable fortune, and would have 
given them a very large sum of money.” As a matter 
of fact, the Spanish were almost literally cutting their 
own throats by this dog-in-the-manger policy. Dampier’s 
comment is a shrewd one : “ It is not my business (he 
says) to determine how far we might have a right of 
cutting wood there, but this I can say, that the Spaniards 
never received less damage from the persons who 

^ A New V jyage and Description, etc. By Lionel Wafer. London : 
Knapton, 1699. 

® There is a later allusion to Russell in Dampier’s writings. He was 
an old logwood-cutter who was captured by the Spaniards and sent to 
Mesico City ; and after his escape he proceeded to “ get his own back ” 
in the usual way, by turning buccaneer. In fact, he drew interest as 
well, for Dampier tells us that “ about the year ’8 $ he captured the town 
of Vera Cruz.” 


generally follow that trade than when they are employed 
upon that work.” Which is very true, for nearly every 
man at Terminos was an ex-buccaneer. The whole 
trade, as Dampier says, “ had its rise from the decay 
of privateering,” which the British authorities were just 
as anxious to stop as the Spaniards were. No doubt the 
logwood-cutters were a nuisance. At first they merely 
stole the logwood which the Spaniards had already cut. 
But when soldiers were sent against them to prevent 
that, they moved down the coast to places like Triste 
and One-Bush-Key, where, one would think, they might 
have been allowed to stew in their own juice. It is true 
that they frequently got drunk, and that they often 
sallied out against neighbouring Indian villagers, and 
“ brought away the Indian women to serve them at 
their huts ” — but what was that to the Spaniards ? 

The Spaniards, however, would never leave the log- 
wood-cutters alone. They were always looking out for 
a chance to suppress them. Occasionally, “ encouraged 
by their careless rioting,” they would pluck up enough 
spirit to make a sudden descent and capture a few of 
these intoxicated Englishmen, and sell them as slaves in 
Mexico. Dampier tells us that, after he left the Bay, 
the logwood-cutters that remained there were all “ routed 
or taken ” in a big Spanish raid. He adds that his 
continual dread of a similar fate was one of the reasons 
which eventually led him also to abandon logwood- 
cutting — and take to buccaneering instead ! 

Well, Dampier lived with the logwood-cutters, and 
cut and hauled all the week, and went out hunting of a 
Saturday night like the rest of them. One of these 
week-end jaunts nearly proved fatal to him, for he got 
separated from his companions (he says he “ gave them 
the slip,” being perhaps bored by their profane conversa- 
tion), and was unable to find his way back. He passed 
an unpleasant night with the mosquitoes, but no larger 



enemy appeared, and next morning he got safely 

About this time, the “ nature notes ” in his journal 
are profuse and lively. “ The monkeys that are in these 
parts are the ugliest I ever saw.” “ The fowls of this 
country are humming-birds ” — which is to say “ a pretty 
little feathered creature no bigger than a wasp.” In 
fact there are enough ornithological observations to make 
a whole chapter. The tailor-birds, with their hanging 
nests, which so vex and tantalize marauding snakes, are 
said to be called in English “ subtle-jacks.” There is a 
kind of shellfish, too, “ called by the English Horse- 
hoofs,” and said to be “ very good meat ” ; but Dampier 
never tasted it, and its name is certainly against it. 
Other local fish are the “ garr-fish,” who “ skip along 
a foot or two above the water for the length of twenty 
or thirty yards,” and will “ dart themselves with such 
force that they strike their snout through the sides of a 
cotton tree canoe ” ; and the “ sea-devils ” who “ make 
■an odd figure when they leap out of the water.” 

As for the “ tiger cats,” “ they prey on young calves 
and other game, whereof here is plenty ; and because 
they do not want food they are the less to be feared, 
but I have wished them farther off when I have met 
them in the woods.” He also discusses the difference 
between crocodiles and alligators at considerable length. 

I am afraid he was not desperately interested in food ; 
but he does remark that he had the curiosity to try the 
snake flesh, which the Indians enjoyed so much, but 
“cannot commend it” — a point on which modern 
gastronomic opinion is entirely with him. 

At the end of his first month Dampier received his 
wages, in the form of a consignment of the logwood 
which he had helped to cut and bring down to the beach. 
With the proceeds of this, and some more money that 
he had borrowed, he proceeded to set up on his own 


account, going into partnership “ with some of my 
former masters.” His immediate associates were three 
men named Price Morrice, Duncan Campbell and 
“ George,” whose surname we never learn. Campbell 
presently took passage on a visiting ship and went to 
New England to sell their existing stock. In his absence 
Dampier was worried to find Price Morrice “ not very 
intent at work.” It is always the same, he complains. 
“ Those who have been well-bred are generally most 
careful to improve their time when there is any proba- 
bility of considerable gain,” but “ those who have been 
inured to hard labour and got their living by the sweat 
of their brows ” no sooner acquire a little money than 
they begin to waste their time “ in drinking and making 
a bluster.” In addition to these troubles, Dampier now 
made his first acquaintance with the “jigger ” worm — 
that familiar enemy of the modern traveller. He 
describes, with a wealth of distressing detail, how it 
“ bred ” in his leg, and made him feel very ill indeed, 
until a negro servant evicted it by means of some simple 
local remedies. 

And then — “ to complete my misfortune ” — came the 
worst storm that any Englishman had ever known in 
those parts. Dampier gives a dramatic account of this 
storm in his Discourse on Winds?- It happened “ some 
time in June, 1676.” Two days previously, the wind 
had “ whiffled about to the South, and back again to 
the East,” blowing very faintly, and the weather fair 
and clear. Then came multitudes of men-of-war birds, 
flying over the land, whereat Dampier’s companions 
were vastly pleased, for did not the appearance of these 
birds always portend the arrival of ships ? Some of the 
men said they had lived at Barbadoes, where it was a 
well-accepted fact that as many of these birds as passed 
over the town “ so many ships there were coming 
^ Part III of volume ii of his Voyages. 



thither.” But on this occasion, as Dampier sarcasti- 
cally observes, it seemed “ impossible that they could 
imagine there could be the hundredth part of the ships 
arrive that they saw birds fly over their heads.” 

The next unusual phenomenon was that the water 
ebbed for two days without a flood, till the creek where 
they lived was almost dry. Then, about four o’clock 
one afternoon, the sky rapidly blackened, and without 
further warning the great storm burst. In less than 
two hours all their huts but one were blown away. By 
ten o’clock next morning the creek was over its banks. 
The forest, says Dampier, presented an astonishing sight, 
with the trees torn up and thrown across one another in 
every direction, so that there was no passing through. 
Multitudes of fish were cast up on shore, or floated 
dead on the surface of the lagoon. At noon on the 
second day, our party of logwood-cutters managed to 
get their canoe to the side of the one remaining hut, 
where they tied it- to a stout tree. That night the storm 
at last abated, and by two o’clock in the morning there 
was a calm. 

Dampier and his companions now found themselves 
in a condition of the greatest misery. All their food 
was spoilt, except the beef and pork, and as the highest 
ground anywhere near them was two or three feet under 
water, it was impossible to do any cooking, “ unless we 
had done it in the canoe.” At last, in despair, they all 
embarked, and sailed away in their canoe to One-Bush- 
Key, where they found only a single vessel remaining 
of the four which had been at anchor there before the 
storm. And this was unfortunately a “ dry ” ship, for 
other refugees had been there before them and had 
drunk up all the rum ! The unhappy, wet quartette 
therefore launched out upon the lagoon, in search of 
the other ships and more heartening fare. 

Approaching Beef Island, they were surprised to sec 


“ a Flag in the Woods, made fast to a pole and placed 
on the Top of a High Tree ” ; and coming near to 
land, there was an even more astonishing sight — ^the 
topmasts of a ship standing up among the trees, at least 
two hundred yards from the shore ! It was one of the 
missing ships from One-Bush-Key, which, flying in with 
the gale behind it, had dashed ashore and ploughed a 
“ pretty clear passage through the woods ” until it 
reached its present unnatural resting-place. There, all 
amidst the humming-birds and the monkeys and the 
mangroves, it was held bolt upright by the broken 
stumps of trees which were sticking through its sides ! 

There was no salvage to be done here, but Dampier 
and his friends went on board, and found there most of 
the crew who hospitably entertained them. Apparently 
none of these hardy adventurers felt any the worse for 
their startling experience. Then, hearing the sound of 
guns, and supposing it to be another of the British 
vessels in distress, Dampier’s party put to sea again, and 
found a ketch, commanded by one. Captain Chandler, 
run ashore “ on a point of sand ” in the lagoon, where 
they had stuck immovably and were feeling very lone- 
some. These people welcomed the logwood-cutters 
with open arms, and persuaded them to stay for two 
days and help them get the cargo off. 

Before leaving the subject of this mighty storm (this 
very notable “ South,” as Dampier calls it), it is of 
interest to collect together some of the further references 
to the subject which are to be found scattered about in 
his writings. Most of them are of a highly technical 
character, suitable only to a work on hydrography ; but 
he does mention that, in addition to the four English 
ships at One-Bush-Key, of whose fate we have heard, 
there were four more anchored off the island of Triste. 
Three of these were driven from their anchorage out 
into the Bay, and one of them was never heard of again. 




This, we may infer, was the only English loss ; for it 
was an extraordinary feature of this storm that it “ did 
not reach 30 leagues to windward of Triste,” and an 
English ship which had sailed for Jamaica three days 
before felt nothing of it, though the captain saw black 
clouds behind him in the west. 

The Spaniards were not so fortunate. Dampier men- 
tions two Spanish “ King’s ships ” as being driven ashore 
in the Bay. One of them, the “ Piscadore,” which had 
run on a sandy beach, near the River Tobasco, was 
there captured by Hewet, the English privateer captain. 
The Spanish loss in merchant ships must have been 
considerable. Dampier says that they always lost more 
heavily than the English, and he goes on to explain 
that this was due to their habit of “ bringing their ships 
to under a foresail and mizzen ” (instead of a mainsail 
and mizzen, or mizzen only, as the English did), which 
“ must be an extraordinary strain to a ship, especially if 
she be long.” What is more, “ when the wind comes 
up fierce,” the Spaniards “ put right afore it ” (for in 
their case “ ’tis but hailing up the mizzen and the foresail 
veers the ship ”) trusting to luck and the goodwill of 
the saints, “ and so continue till the storm ceaseth or 
tke land takes them up ” — ^which evidently happened not 

After helping Captain Chandler off with his cargo, 
Dampier and his friends returned to Beef Island, which 
now became their headquarters. Beef Island was, at 
this time, full of friendly Indians, who were very 
pro-British (and correspondingly anti-Spanish) in their 
sympathies. I fear it can hardly be maintained that the 
logwood-cutters, in removing large numbers of the 
neighbouring Indian women (as noted above) from the 
care of their natural guardians, were inspired by motives 
which would have commended themselves to the 
Aborigines Protection Society ; or were even scheming 


to get the Indians on their side. But the fact remains, 
as Dampier remarks with his usual air of detachment, 
that it was these women who “ after their return made, 
known the kind Entertainment that they met with from 
the English and persuaded their friends to leave their 
dwellings near the Spaniards, and settle on this island.” 

So that it was in a thoroughly friendly and cordial 
atmosphere that Dampier once more found leisure to 
open his journal and record a few notes. Beef Island 
seems to have had an unusual history — and Dampier 
always had an eye for the unusual. It originally belonged 
to a Spaniard called “ John d ’Acosta ” of Campeachy 
Town, who seems to have had more resilience than most 
of his countrymen ; for, perceiving the impossibility of 
keeping the English out altogether, he made a compact 
with them, whereby he supplied them with as many 
head of cattle as they cared to ask for, on condition that 
they never came farther inland than the beach, and never 
did any hunting themselves. This was a wise provision, 
for, as Dampier observes, the Spaniards would “ pick 
and choose only the bulls and old cows, and leave the 
young cattle to breed,” whereas the English and French 
(especially the French) destroyed recklessly.^ But the 
pig-headed governor of Campeachy, getting to hear of 
this arrangement, threw poor John d’ Acosta into prison, 
where he remained many years. That was in ’7 1 or ’72. 
Thereafter, of course, the English shot cattle at their 
will and treated the island as their own property. More- 
over, as we have seen, it had become an asylum for anti- 
Spanish Indians. 

* So much so that very shortl7 after our capture of Jamaica there 
were no cattle left on that island, and the soldiers of the garrison, who 
had slaughtered them all, were like to die of hunger. As a matter of 
fact, adds Dampier, “ had it not been for the great care of the Spaniards 
in stocking the West Indies with hogs and bullocks, the privateers must 
have starved ” — a curious reflection ! 



Dampier did a good deal of shooting on Beef Island, 
and found the cattle grown wilder and fiercer. When 
attacked, they would run together as buffaloes do to-day, 
with the cows in the middle and the bulls showing a 
fence of lowered heads to the enemy. It was about this 
time, too, that, in crossing a stream, he stepped on an 
alligator, and in trying to scramble ashore (his com- 
panions all having run away at the first alarm), he twice 
stumbled over the same (or another) reptile, which so 
terrified him that he took an oath never to ford a river 
on foot again. He has several notes on the habits of 
the Indians— on their dress, for instance, in which 
“ with their hair tied up in a knot behind, they think 
themselves extream fine.” They also overrated their 
local drink, a beverage made from tartilloes. “If they 
treat a friend with this drink,” remarks Dampier dis- 
paragingly, “ they mix a little honey with it ; for their 
ability reaches no higher.” Yet “ this is as acceptable 
to them as a glass of wine to us.” Their sleeping 
“ hammocks,” however, were very comfortable — as 
British sailors were already beginning to find out. 
Dampier expresses a strong view that the converted 
Indians, living near the Spanish towns, were very sincere 
Christians ; and, summing the Indian question up, he 
expresses this evidently typical opinion of an English- 
man of his time : “ They are a harmless sort of people, 
kind to any stranger ; and even to the Spaniards, by 
whom they are so much kept under, that they are worse 
than slaves : nay, the very Negroes will domineer over 
them ; and are countenanced to do so by the Spaniards.” 

I do not know how long Dampier remained on Beef 
Island. But we notice about this time that his journal 
begins to take on a more travelled air. His notes range 
far afield. He discovers, for instance, that there is a 
good opening for the hatters’ and haberdashers’ trades 
in the Spanish settlements along the coast. Why, “ an 


old English beaver ” hat, if it be “ new-dressed ” would 
fetch twenty dollars ! He exclaims at the stupidity of 
the English “ privateers ” in always trying to get across 
Mexico to the Pacific side — ^for instance to Tehuan- 
tepec — “ supposing, as many do still, that the South Sea 
shore is nothing but Gold and Silver.” He describes 
the failure of Hewet and Rives in their expedition from 
Triste to the River Goazacoalcos, designing to attack a 
town near there, but they had to give it up because of 
floods. Also the repulse of Hewet from before Estapo.^ 
In fact the doings of the privateers begin to occupy an 
inexplicable amount of space. Then suddenly comes 
the frank confession. He himself is a privateer — ^has 
been one for months. The die is cast ! 

But Dampier, though he offers few excuses for his 
conduct, is not sufficiently proud of his new profession 
to give us the description of how he actually crossed 
the Rubicon. There are several such deliberate omis- 
sions in his books ; but this is the one that I regret 
most of all. What is certain is that he could hardly 
help himself. The storm had destroyed everything he 
possessed ; logwood-cutting was at a standstill for at 
least a year ; and there was no reason why ships should 
continue to visit the lagoon in the interval. With the 
aid of his gun a man might possibly have succeeded in 
keeping himself alive among the Indians on Beef Island ; 
but it was too much to expect that any sane person 
should choose this alternative while any other offered. 
In fact, as the excellent Smyth puts it, Dampier, who 

^ I borrow the following extract as it stands from Mr* Philip Gosse’s 
Pirates’ Who ’s Who : “ Hewett, William, or Hewet, or Hewit, of 
Jamaica. One of Major Stede Bonnet’s crew. Tried for pirac7 at 
Charleston in 1718, and hanged at White Point on November i8th, 
and buried in the marsh before low-water mark.” Was Dampier by 
any chance with Hewet in the Bay f He never mentions the name of 
his commander. 


5 + 

after nearly three years among “ such dissolute associates 
as the logwood-cutters ” had yet “ escaped the moral 
contamination of their vices and excesses,” was now 
driven into even worse company “ by imperious neces- 
sity.” Or, in Dampier’s simpler language, “ I with 
many more in my circumstances was forced to range 
about to seek a subsistence in company with some 
privateers then in the Bay.” 

The story of Dampier’s first voyage with the buc- 
caneers is quickly told. “ In these rambles,” he says 
(“ rambles ” is a good word, by the way), “ we visited 
all the rivers from Triste to Alvarado ; and made many 
descents into the country among the villages there.” 
But he gives us very few details, except in regard to 
their one serious encounter with the Spaniards. This 
took place at Alvarado, a town near Vera Cruz, across 
the Bay to the west. Here there was a real battle. In 
two boats, holding thirty men each, the buccaneers 
attacked the Spanish fort, and captured it after fierce 
fighting, in which ten or eleven Englishmen were killed — 
only to find that in the meantime the inhabitants of the 
town had escaped in boats with all their money and 
movable property. This was a nasty blow. The 
English, however, took away with them some salt beef 
and numbers of yellow and red parrots, which pleased 
Dampier particularly “ because they would prate very 

Now, what with beef, “ chests, hencoops and parrot- 
cages,” the English ships were “ full of lumber,” when, 
having rested themselves, and licked their wounds, the 
buccaneers at last set sail again. As they left the river, 
they encountered seven Spanish “ armadilloes,” which 
had been sent from Vera Cruz to intercept them. But, 
“ heaving all the lumber overboard ” — a sad end to the 
parrots’ prating — “ we drove out over the bar ” ; and 
after a confused fight with this vastly superior enemy, 


who, however, showed no great stomach for it, both 
privateers got clear away. According to Dampier, the 
two English ships had only eight guns between them, 
and not above fifty men left after the fight on shore, 
while the seven Spaniards had some ten and some four 
guns, and crews of sixty to eighty men apiece. So that 
there was nothing disgraceful about the buccaneers’ 

Dampier had now been cruising and fighting for a 
period of about twelve months. A new logwood-cutting 
season had begun, and the effects of the late storm were 
“ almost forgot.” He, and most of his immediate 
associates, accordingly bade farewell to the privateers, 
and returned with well-lined pockets to Terminos. 
Dampier resumed operations on the eastern side of the 
lagoon, as far removed as possible from One-Bush-Key. 

He was as much attracted as ever to this “ most 
profitable ” trade ; but he had made up his mind to pay 
a visit to England at the first opportunity, “ with a 
design to return hither.” At the beginning of April, 
1678, he therefore sailed from Triste, and landed in 
Jamaica, where he took passage for England with a 
Captain Loder, and arrived there, after an uneventful 
voyage, at the beginning of August of the same year. 
He had been away four and a half years. 



N anonymous author of the late 
seventeenth century who, for reasons 
connected with the sale of his book, 
apparently desires to be mistaken for 
that rather backboneless buccaneer. 
Captain Bartholomew Sharp,^ makes 
the following interesting reflection in 
his book called Voyages and Adven- 
tures : “ That which often spurs men on to the under- 
taking of the most difficult adventures is the sacred 
hunger of Gold ; and ’twas Gold was the bait that 
tempted a Pack of merry Boys of us, near three hundred 
in number, being all Souldiers of Fortune, under com- 
mand (by our own election) of Captain John Cox, 
to . . in short, to become buccaneers. 

Regarded as a general proposition, there is much 
truth in that. Gold has been the stuff of romance in a 
sense never dreamt of by misers. Dangled before the 
Spanish conquistadores and the Elizabethan adventurers, 
it recast the map of the world, and made such a change 
in human mentality as has never taken place, before or 
since, in so brief a period of time. But what “ Captain 
Sharp ” appears to mean is simply that gold was the 

^ The V lyages and Adventures of Captain Bartholomew Sharp in the 
Being a Journal of the Same. London: 1684. Sharp’s own 
manuscript journal is in the Sloane Collection. See page 66. 



lure that attracted the buccaneers. This is not strictly 
fair. The early buccaneers were, in the words of Andrew 
Lang, “ the most hideously ruthless miscreants that ever 
disgraced the earth and the sea.” But to describe them 
as mere “ go-getters ” after wealth in the approved 
modern manner, is to inflict an injustice on their 
memories. As with the logwood-cutters, they could 
hardly help themselves. Indeed, the cases of the buc- 
caneers and the logwood-cutters were very similar, as I 
shall presently show. 

But the first thing we have to do is to get out of our 
heads the idea that “ buccaneer ” was only another and 
politer word for “ pirate.” Many of the pirates were 
no doubt ex-buccaneers. But there would certainly have 
been piracy in the West Indies, in the circumstances of 
those days, if the buccaneers had never existed. The 
rise of the buccaneers was a considerable movement, 
almost a rebellion, of men of all nations — ^former slaves, 
criminals, adventurers and what not — against the Spanish 
authority. To class them with the pirates is like com- 
paring the Spartacists of Ancient Rome with the foot- 
pads of the eighteenth century. The pirates were 
ordinary sea-robbers — small gangs of men, usually 
mutinous seamen, who went about thieving and murder- 
ing in a hole-and-corner way, and were shot at sight by 
every honest man who happened to have a gun. But 
the rise of the buccaneers was an insurrection of all the 
discontented elements in the West Indies, directed 
primarily against the Spanish rule. They fought both 
by land and sea. They were formidable foes. The 
pirates were their unworthy offspring. 

We find the buccaneers first on the island of His- 
paniola, or Haiti, engaged, like the logwood-cutters in 
Campeachy Bay, in a highly lucrative, if dangerous, 
trade, which the Spanish authorities were determined to 
put a stop to if they could. Hispaniola was full of wild 



cattle, not only “ beeves ” (as the wild bulls and cows 
were called) but horses and wild boars, and the buc- 
caneers were simply hunters. They are believed to have 
got their name from the boucans, or places where they 
salted their meat. Their leading historian is the Dutch- 
man, Esquemeling, who does not pretend to have been 
happy in their company. He landed in Hispaniola in 
about 1669, and describes the buccaneers as a savage 
and dirty people, fearing neither God nor man, wearing 
coarse linen garments which they steeped in the blood 
of the animals they slaughtered, armed to the teeth, and 
ready to murder any stranger who came among them. 
Like the logwood-cutters, they spent all their money in 
lewd and riotous living whenever they could get near 
a town. Like them, too, they had a wonderful thirst. 
They drank brandy “ as liberally as the Spaniards do 
clear fountain water.” Sometimes two of them — for 
they commonly hunted in couples, sharing everything 
they possessed — ^would combine to buy a pipe of wine, 
and this, says Esquemeling, “ they stave at the one end, 
and never cease drinking till they have made an end of 
it.” Nor, unfortunately, were the “ beastly delights ” 
of the “ goddess Venus ” forgotten. The chronicler 
spares us nothing. 

Esquemeling’s narrative undoubtedly has the ring of 
truth, and his story of the subsequent exploits of the 
buccaneers when they left the island is among the classics 
of seventeenth-centuiy travel literature.^ But though I 
do not believe that he lied intentionally, it is difficult to 
resist the impression that he did “ pile on the agony,” 
when it came to describing the cruelties practised upon 
the inhabitants of captured Spanish towns. He was a 
most unwilling recruit among the buccaneers, and prob- 
ably repeats a good deal of camp-fire gossip. 

^ The Buccaneers of America. By John Esquemeling. English trans- 
lation, 1684-85. New edition : Routledge, London, 1926* 


At any rate, there was war to the knife between the 
Spaniards and these islanders. The latter, most of whom 
at this time were Frenchmen, would retire to the neigh- 
bouring island of Tortuga, when they found things 
getting too hot for them on Hispaniola, and from thence 
make sudden descents to collect more cattle. The 
Spaniards, with their usual shortsighted obstinacy, were 
prepared to go to the length of slaughtering all the 
cattle on the island rather than that the French should 
make any profit out of them. At last, the inevitable 
happened. The buccaneers, despairing of earning their 
living by any peaceful means, took finally to the sword, 
and were engaged for the rest of their history in an 
irregular and predatory warfare both by land and sea — 
yet something quite distinct from common piracy — 
against the Spanish authority throughout the West 

And with the occasion, there arose the men. At 
Esquemeling’s landing, there were not more than three 
hundred buccaneers in Tortuga ; but, scattered about 
the different islands, their numbers were rapidly in- 
creasing, and leaders of first-rate ability had already 
appeared who were well able to make a deadly use of 
this tremendous fighting instrument. 

These leaders, in the beginning, were not necessarily 
seamen, nor were their principal exploits performed at 
sea. Lewis Scott, who appears to have been the first 
to operate on the grand scale, captured and sacked 
Campeachy Town — ^with what kind of following, French, 
English, or mixed, we are not told. Mansvelt, and 
John Davis of Jamaica, also deserve mention. Davis 
coolly walked into the town of Nicaragua with a mere 
handful of followers, and began to pillage the principal 
houses, and rob the churches of their sacred vessels, 
“ without any respect or veneration.” When he had 
collected as much as he coidd carry away, he made his 



escape before the town guard could rally against him. 
But L’Olonois, the Frenchman, who had been sold as a 
slave in the Caribbee Islands, and escaped to lead the 
buccaneers, was an abominable villain, whose cruelty 
overshadows even his courage and skill. He had a 
fleet of eight vessels, and captured many towns and 
villages, torturing and murdering the inhabitants without 
compunction. On one occasion he is said to have cut 
open the breast of a captured Spaniard, and “ pulling 
out his heart with his sacrilegious hands, began to bite 
and gnaw it with his teeth, like a ravenous wolf.” ^ 
This “ infernal wretch,” as Esquemeling calls him, met 
a suitably horrible death at the hands of hostile Indians. 
Others of standing among these early buccaneers were 
the Dutchman, Roche Brasiliano, who had been ill- 
treated by the Spaniards, and cherished an inveterate 
hatred against them ; and Bartholomew Portugues, who 
deserves to be remembered for his escape from imprison- 
ment at Campeachy Town, and his long journey over- 
land to the Terminos Lagoon, covering a distance of 
forty leagues in a fortnight, and having nothing to eat 
on the way but a few shellfish. 

But the greatest of all the buccaneers was undoubtedly 
Henry Morgan — “ our English-Jamaican hero,” as he 
is magnificently styled on the title-page of the English 
translation of Esquemeling. And it is when we come 
to consider Morgan’s career that we begin to doubt 
Esquemeling’s simple view of the wicked buccaneers — 
or, at any rate, to realize that there are two sides to the 
case. Morgan was a big man, in every sense of the 
word. He commanded fleets of fifty sail, or more, and 
guns enough to oppose any armament that could be 
brought against him. In fact, he frequently held undis- 
puted command of the seas in those parts. He led land 
armies, as in his famous expedition across the Isthmus 
^ Esquemeling. 


of Panama, which no local authority could hope to with- 
stand. Apart from the magnificent fighting quality of 
his men, collected from every country in Europe except 
Spain, they were numerous enough to enable him to 
conquer whole islands, hoist the English flag over them, 
and occupy them for as long as he found convenient. 

It is significant, by the way, that the buccaneers seem 
invariably to have fought under the. national flag of their 
leader, whoever he might be, whereas their piratical 
descendants flew the Jolly Roger, or (more commonly, 
I think) a disreputable blood-red flag. Relations were 
nearly always perfectly friendly between each leader of 
the early buccaneers and his own particular national 
authorities. De Susco was made Governor of Tortuga, 
and the French^ authorities, on at least one occasion, 
employed a buccaneer fleet against the Dutch. Morgan 
had the support of the Jamaican authorities, and he ended 
up with a knighthood and a comfortable billet as Lieu- 
tenant-Governor of the island. 

Yet Esquemeling accuses him of every imaginable 
atrocity, of burning and slaying without distinction of 
sex or age, of hanging up his prisoners over “ slow fires ” 
in order to make them tell him where treasure lay hid, 
of having Spanish ladies carried off to his tent, and, in 
general, of running a good second to L’Olonois in 
villainy. Morgan, however, has not been without his 
defenders. In Sharp’s V oyages and Adventures.^ for 
instance, it is pointed out, with some plausibility, that 
Morgan’s forces were always well disciplined ; that 
mere idle destruction and cruelty were not in his own 
interests ; that he was not an escaped slave with a 
passion for revenge (as Esquemeling alleges), but a man 
of good family from Monmouthshire, who had gone out 
to the West Indies as a soldier ; and finally that there 
was, in practice, a state of war between ourselves and 
Spain in the West Indies (though no formal declaration 



had been made) right up to the settlement in 1670 ; and 
that anyhow Morgan held a commission from Sir Thomas 
Muddiford,^ the Governor, and was therefore to be 
regarded as doing what he did in the service of King 

To sum up, I do not think that we can believe Esque- 
meling in regard to details. There is no evidence but 
his for the allegation that Morgan enjoyed torturing 
prisoners. What may have happened in the heat of 
battle is quite another story. The men of the seven- 
teenth century were not naturally and coldly cruel like 
those of the sixteenth ; but we have only to remember 
Tilly in Germany and Cromwell in Ireland to realize 
that they were capable of almost anything when their 
blood was up. Morgan was a brutal soldier, but he 
was not a pirate. Pirates would as soon have robbed 
and murdered an English crew as any other ; they were 
enemies of society, common felons, their hand against 
every man, and every man’s hand against them.® To 
describe such a man as Morgan as a pirate is as foolish 
as it would be to call Long John Silver a pickpocket.® 

One word as to the state of the buccaneering profes- 
sion at the moment when Dampier decided temporarily 
to join its ranks. “ Privateering,” as it was now called, 
had lost its character of an armed rebellion, and was 
rapidly settling down as a regular line of business in 
the West. On the other hand, it had not yet become 
too disreputable for a man like Dampier to touch. The 
wholesale crimes of L’Olonois had not yet given place 

^ His Jamaica estate, the Angels, happened to be next to that of 
Colonel Helyar, where Dampier had worked. 

® Yet we learn that, as late as 1718, the Governor of Nortlt Carolina 
had the bad taste to be present in person at the wedding of that worst of 
pirates, “ Blackboard ” Teach. 

* As Coleridge remarks, i propos of the Elizabethan adventurers, 
“ No man is a pirate unless his contemporaries agree to call him so.” 
Table-Talk, Mar. 17th, 1832. 


to the paltry rascalities of a Captain Kidd. In fact, the 
business was for the moment almost respectable. We 
shall find these later buccaneers piously observing 
Sundays and Christmas Day, and hear from an eye- 
witness how one of their commanders indignantly threw 
overboard the dice with which he found some members 
of his crew profaning the Sabbath. Dampier, as we 
have seen, professedly joined them for no other purpose 
than to see the world : and everything that we know of 
his character seems to support that profession. Andrew 
Lang, in his famous denunciation of the buccaneers, 
was careful to make an exception of Dampier, singling 
him out by name ; but the truth is that there must 
have been scores of others in Sharp’s company who were 
no more to be classed as criminals than Dampier was. 
Basil Ringrose, who has written the best description of 
the voyage, was a gentleman, and even something of a 
scholar. And others who have left records behind, like 
Wafer the surgeon, were obviously decent men, who 
never dreamt that they were doing anything morally 
wrong. They were not proud of being buccaneers, and 
their governments were not proud of them ; but they 
certainly never expected to be punished for it by any- 
one, except possibly the Spanish monopolists whose 
trade regulations they defied. It was, perhaps, rather 
like being a rum-runner on the American coast 

We left Dampier enjoying a brief holiday in England. 
But brief as it was, he found time to get married — a sort 
of “ war-marriage,” though more successful than most 
of them. The lady was from the household of the Duke 
of Grafton, and her Christian name was Judith, but 
that is literally all we know of her. Apparently she 
never bore him any children. In the following^ spring 
(1679) he was off again on his wanderings, booking as a 
passenger on board the “ Loyal Merchant,” of London, 



bound for Jamaica. His intention was to revisit the 
Bay of Campeachy, and trade with the logwood-cutters, 
for which purpose he brought with him a consignment 
of such goods as he knew would have a ready sale in 
those quarters — ^hats, for instance, sugar, saws, axes, 
stockings, shoes and, of course, rum. But after landing 
at Port Royal, he changed his plans, “ upon some 
maturer considerations,” the nature of which he does 
not confide to us. He sold his goods at Jamaica, and 
remained there for the rest of the year, looking about 
for suitable employment. 

In the end, he very nearly returned to England. He 
happened to hear of “ a small estate in Dorsetshire, near 
my native county of Somerset,” and promptly bought it 
from the title-holder, intending to sail for England about 
Christmas time, in order to see his new property. In 
fact, he was just about to embark, when a certain Mr. 
Hobby proposed to him a short trading voyage to the 
country of the Mosquito Indians, and Dampier, thinking 
it advisable to raise a little more money before returning 
to England, consented to go with him. Though he did 
not know it at the time, this was one of the most im- 
portant decisions of his career. For Captain Hobby, 
after leaving Port Royal, happened to put in at Negril 
Bay, at the western end of the island of Jamaica. To 
his surprise he found the harbour full of ships. Closer 
investigation revealed a whole fleet of the “ privateers,” 
who had recently made a rendezvous there. There 
were nearly a dozen ships in all, mounting about fifty 
guns, and the crews numbering 477 men. The com- 
manders were Sawkins, Coxon, Harris, Sharp, Cook and 
others, assisted by two French privateers. 

It was a lively scene ; for the little fleet was in high 
fettle. This new concentration of forces was reminiscent 
of the great days of Sir Henry Morgan ; and the leaders 
were, as a fact, at that moment planning a descent upon 


the unfortunate town of Porto Bello, which Morgan 
himself had sacked only a few years before. Provisions 
were abundant, rum flowed freely, and we can believe 
that a hearty welcome was accorded to Hobby’s ship, 
the latest arrival, when it appeared in their midst. Boats 
plied to and fro. Hobby’s men mingled with the buc- 
caneers, and, learning that a long expedition was being 
“ contrived,” they at once deserted in a body, “ leaving,” 
says Dampier, “ not one with him beside myself.” 
Dampier stuck by the unfortunate Hobby for three or 
four days, and then he too was “ persuaded to go with 
them.” Whereupon Mr. Hobby disappears from our 
history. A few days later, the buccaneer fleet set sail 
for Porto Bello. 

Before entering upon this new episode in Dampier’s 
career, let us glance at our “ authorities,” who happen 
to be numerous, varied and entertaining. The first is 
Dampier himself — clear, concise, disinterested, so aloof 
from his companions that he might almost be describing 
a voyage he never saw ; and alas 1 so brief. The 
second and best — because by far the fullest and as 
honest as Dampier himself — is Basil Ringrose, gentle- 
man and scholar, whose knowledge of Latin once enabled 
him to save the lives of a whole boat-load of British 
buccaneers, by acting as interpreter between them and 
the Spaniards. “ He had no mind to this voyage,” says 
his friend, Dampier, “ but was necessitated to engage in 
it, or starve.” His artless narrative is as good a thing 
of its kind as can be found anywhere in our travel 
literature. Unfortunately, Ringrose was killed in action 
at the taking of Santiago in Mexico, in 1686, and never 
got back to England to see his book through the press. 
In the meantime, a friend of Captain Sharp’s (probably 
William Hacke) ^ got at the manuscript, and, in addition 
to a lot of quite unnecessary editing, inserted here and 

1 See Smyth. 



there passages in praise of Sharp, whom Ringrose had 
very seldom mentioned, and probably despised. I shall 
note some of the more humorous of these interpolations 
as we go along. Ringrose’s book, as it first appeared ^ 
(as a second volume of Esquemeling) and as it has 
recently been reprinted in a very handy form for modern 
readers,^ is therefore, unfortunately, not his own ; but 
his original manuscript happily exists and may be seen 
in the British Museum.® 

Captain Sharp has given his own account of the 
affair — brief but lively.^ Then there is the excellent 
Cox,® a simple sailorman of New England, who dedicates 
his journal — ^it is, for the most part, only his day-to-day 
log — to the Duke of Albemarle, explaining that “ a 
formall epistle ” would be “ a task beyond the capacity 
of a sayler ” ; and, therefore, begs his lordship “ to 
accepte this journal in the Plaine Tarpaulin Habbitt in 
which you will find it.” Sharp hates Cox, describing 
him as a man whom he (Sharp) had helped to advance- 
ment “ from old acquaintance ” and not “ from any 
valour or knowledge he was possessed of.” Cox, on 
the other hand, is notably fair to Sharp. Sharp, in fact, 
is a typical smooth-tongued “ climber,” a man who could 
always talk his shipmates round, but could never lead 
them in a fight. Cox is an ordinary, thick-headed 

Lionel Wafer, whose journal has already been quoted,® 
was a young chemist’s assistant, who went to sea as a 
surgeon’s mate. There are some curious similarities 

^ The Buccaneers of America, vol. ii., containing the dangerous voyage 
and bold attempts of Captain Bartholomew Sharp. From the original 
journal of the said voyage, written by Mr. Basil Ringrose, gent. London : 

* The Buccaneers of America. New Edition. Routledge: 1926. 

® Sloane Collection, No. 3820. 

* Sloane Collection, No. 46 a and b» 

® Sloane Collection, No. 49. * Page 44. 


between his career and Dampier’s. His first long voyage 
was to Bantam, and his second to Jamaica, where he 
had a brother employed by Sir Thomas Muddiford, at 
the Angels plantation, next door to that of the Helyars 
at Sixteen-Mile-Walk. He was in practice as a surgeon 
at Port Royal when he fell into the society of the 
privateers. He was about ten years younger than 
Dampier and evidently made a hero of him ; for his 
rather rambling account of this voyage— obviously 
written some time afterwards — ^makes frequent and 
admiring references to “ Mr. Dampier,” whereas in the 
other journals we are dealing with Dampier is hardly 
mentioned at all. We must remember, however, that 
Dampier’s book, which had a great success, was being 
widely talked about at the time when Wafer wrote. It 
would, therefore, be unsafe to assume that Dampier 
played quite the prominent part in these adventures 
which Wafer assigns to him. 

Finally, there are two less reliable authorities. In an 
additional chapter, appended to the second edition of 
the History of the Buccaneers^ there is an account of the 
voyage said to have been written by one of those present, 
and wearing, in places, the appearance of having been 
compiled by Sharp himself ; but this can hardly be, for 
the story ends with a description of Sharp’s discreditable 
disappearance from England, after committing an act of 
piracy in the Channel and stealing some cattle from 
Romney Marsh. And lastly, there is the unknown quill- 
driver whom I quoted at the opening of this chapter, 
and who seems to have “ cribbed ” nearly all his facts 
from Cox. So much for our authorities. 

The Porto Bello affair was soon over. The buc- 
caneers landed two hundred men, who crept through the 
surrounding forests, and by a sudden dash succeeded in 
surprising the place. The town surrendered promptly — 
it was becoming a habit with it — and the conquerors 



divided among themselves booty to the value of ;^4o a 
head, not counting the extra shares awarded according 
to custom to the various commanders. They were now 
free to attempt some more arduous adventure elsewhere. 
After many conferences, in which Dampier certainly took 
no part, a really sporting decision was arrived at. It 
was resolved to march by land across the Isthmus of 
Darien, and try their luck “ upon some new adventures 
in the South Seas.” They were sure in advance of the 
support of the Darien Indians, who hated the Spaniards 
as much as they had loved the English ever since a 
certain Captain Wright, fifteen years before, had be- 
friended an Indian lad, clothed him, and fed him, 
christened him with the curious name of John Gret, and 
sent him back to his kindred. 

But they were sure of nothing else. Of the country 
they had to traverse, its jungles and rivers and fever- 
laden swamps, of how long the march would take them, 
what provisions they might require, and what resistance 
they must expect from the Spaniards of the coast towns, 
when they reached the other side, they knew nothing 
whatever — except from the vague descriptions of their 
Indian friends. Nothing deterred by this, the fleet 
assembled at an island called the Golden Island, in the 
Gulf of Darien, which had been appointed as their 
rendezvous ; and here the English prepared to make 
their landing on the mainland, leaving a strong party 
behind to protect their ships in their absence. The two 
French privateers, however, parted company, misliking 
the idea of this inland voyage. 

The English rowed ashore, and proceeded to draw up 
by companies upon the beach. They made a brave 
show, as their captains marshalled them in their ranks 
under the blazing sun. The dress of the men would 
conform to no fixed rule ; but then, as now, a sailor was 
easily distinguishable by his clothes, and of these we 


may obtain some rough idea from the list of “ slops ” 
provided for the Royal Navy at that time. For the 
Navy had no uniform yet ; it wore, like the buccaneers, 
the ordinary seaman’s garments of the period. These 
would consist of jackets of grey kersey, a kind of coarse 
woollen cloth ; blue waistcoats ; wide petticoat breeches, 
striped “ crosswise” in crimson, and reaching to the knee ; 
under them linen drawers ; black stockings and shoes ; 
and red caps, with loosely tied white neckcloths.^ Not 
a bad dress for this particular occasion, provided that 
the stockings were thick enough to keep out mos- 

Captain Sharp had been ill (I suspect him of sea- 
sickness), but as commander-in-chief, he was given the 
van. His company marched first. They had a red 
flag with a bunch of white and green ribbons. Next 
came Sawkins’s men, with a red flag striped with yellow. 
Then two companies under Captain Peter Harris, having 
two green flags ; then John Coxon, with two companies, 
flying red flags ; and finally Captain Edmund Cook, 
whose colours were “ red, striped with yellow, with a 
hand and sword for his device.” The men were armed 
with fusee, pistol and hanger, and carried three or four 
“ doughboys,” or hard dumplings, boiled in sea-water. 
“ For drink,” says Ringrose, “ the rivers afforded 
enough.” There were 327 ^ men in all, with six Indians 
to guide them. Dampier was with Sharp’s company. 

And so, turning their backs upon the white beach, 
they marched into the dark shadow of the tropical 
forests. Their ships moved away, and for all that any 

^ See Mariner^ s Mirror^ January, 1924, “ Dress of British Seamen,” 
by G. E. Manwaring. There is no idea yet of “ Navy-blue.” Indeed 
officers were often dressed in scarlet, and there seems to have been some 
danger that red would come to be regarded as the characteristic seaman’s 
colour. The familiar blue and white uniform was not adopted until 1 748. 

2 Cox says 330 English and 7 French. 



Spanish cruiser could have seen a few minutes later 
there might never have been an Englishman on that 
deserted shore. 

This famous march began on the 5th of April, 1680 • 
and that very first night some showers of rain fell. But 
it cleared up later, and the little army slept comfortably 
enough, “ having,” as Cox says in an unusual burst of 
eloquence, “ the cold ground for our bedding and the 
spangled firmament for our covering.” The tempera- 
ture would be about 90° in the shade. On the 6th 
they continued their march, climbing a steep mountain, 
where the paths were so narrow that only one man at 
a time could pass, and descending towards evening into 
a valley on the other side. About noon on April 7th 
they reached a native town and were handsomely enter- 
tained by the chief, whom they called “ King Golden 
Cap,” His garments appear to have consisted almost 
entirely of beaten gold — ^which made John Cox’s mouth 
water ! After a short rest, they continued their march 
along the banks of a river, and on April 9th, Sharp, 
Coxon, Cook and sixty others embarked in canoes which 
the Indians provided, but found this even more fatiguing 
than travelling by land, because of the fallen trees and 
other obstructions in the water. However, they got 
well ahead of their companions, and on the 12th were 
close to Santa Maria, a town on the river of that name, 
which runs into the Bay of Panama, by the Gulf of San 
Miguel. They saw many wild beasts, but were afraid 
to fire at them, lest the sound of the shots should give 
warning to the Spaniards. Bartholomew Sharp was 
particularly interested in the wild hogs, and no wonder, 
for he “ observed that the navels of these kinds of 
animals grew upon their backs.” ^ Next day the main 

Shelvocke, the privateer commander, claims to have noted tlie same 
phenomenon thirty years later. See his Voyage Round the World, London, 


body joined them, and after a night’s rest, the advance 
upon the town of Santa Maria was begun. 

The entire force, with the addition of fifty more 
Indians, was carried down the river in a fleet of sixty- 
eight canoes, and landed at midnight at a point about 
half a mile from the town. The banks were so thick 
in mud that it was only by clinging to the branches of 
the trees that the men could drag themselves ashore, 
after which they had to hew their way through the 
tropical undergrowth in the dark till they reached a spot 
where they might rest unperceived by their enemies until 
dawn. But very early in the morning, almost before it 
was light, they were startled to hear a discharge of fire- 
arms in the town, followed by the beating of a drum, 
which showed pretty plainly that the Spaniards had been 
warned. The English, therefore, armed themselves in 
haste, and emerging from the wood, with a loud cheer 
advanced rapidly across the open. 

The Spanish garrison retired before them into “ a 
large palisaded fort, having each pale or post twelve 
foot high,” and from thence “ began to fire very briskly 
at us as we came.” The buccaneers’ advance guard, or 
“ forlorn,” under that particularly gallant fellow, Sawkins 
(Sharp claims to have been with them, too, though it is 
not clear why, and, in view of his subsequent record, 
not very likely), went ahead at the double, and, coming 
up to the palisades, forced their way in, and in a few 
minutes were masters of the fort. According to Ring- 
rose, there were 260 Spaniards inside, and not above 
fifty assailants. The Spaniards lost over forty killed and 
wounded, the buccaneers only two. There was no 
further resistance, and our adventurers rushed eagerly 
into the town, in search of loot. 

Alas ! it turned out to be but “ a little pitiful place,” 
very different from the wealthy metropolis which the 
imagination of their Indian allies had conjured up. 



Worse still, the Governor and all the chief men had 
made a timely “ get-away,” taking with them most of 
the gold and valuables. The only people who got any 
satisfaction out of the capture were the Indians, who 
^used themselves by taking the Spanish prisoners out 
into the adjoining woods and murdering them there 
until their European allies put a stop to it. Moreover^ 
King Golden Cap’s daughter, who had been held captive 
here by the Spaniards, was released and restored to her 
fond parent’s bejewelled breast — a romantic little incident 
certainly, but of secondary interest to a party of hard- 
headed Englishmen whose minds were running on pieces 
of eight. 

With their appetites no more than whetted, the buc- 
caneers left Santa Maria, and pressed on eagerly towards 
the coast. The end of their long march was now 
approaching. On the second day out from Santa Maria, 
a faint blue ribbon was seen upon the far horizon. 

About eleven of the clock,” says Sharp, “ we had a 
sight of the fair South Sea ” ; and, like Xenophon’s 
Greeks two thousand years before, they must have hailed 
it with cries of joy. Apparently they had hardly any 
sick on this long march, though the climate of the 
peninsula is notoriously dangerous for Europeans. 

^ It should be explained that they had come down the 
river in their canoes, and their first vague intention was 
to proceed in them against the important town of 
Panama, the scene of Morgan’s most resounding exploit.^ 
Near the mouth of the river they captured a small ship, 
and there was, not unnaturally, something of a rush to 
get on board of her, especially among those who were 
in the less seaworthy canoes. Ringrosc in his MS. says 
simply that “ there got in 137 men with Captain Sharp 
and Captain Cook.” The published (and doctored) 

^ He cEptured and sacked the town in 1670, and then slipped away 
With nearly all the booty, leaving his followers in the lurch. 

•oj/i the Macpherson Collection 


edition of his work says : “ There embarked thereon 
to the number of 137 of our company, together with 
that sea-artist and valiant commander, Captain Bartholo- 
mew Sharp ” — ^and adds slightingly that “ with him went 
also on board Captain Cook.” As a matter of fact, 
Cook was by far the more “ valiant commander ” of 
the two. 

But it soon became apparent that the Spaniards had 
again received warning of their enemies’ approach, 
"^^en the canoes came in sight of Panama on the morning 
of April 25th, they found the garrison standing to arms, 
and a fleet, consisting of five “ great ships ” and three 
“ pretty big barks ” of the armadillo type, drawn up 
outside to receive them. There followed a brisk sea- 
fight, which Ringrose vividly describes. The English 
were not in full strength. Sharp with some of the canoes 
having been detached on a minor expedition, and failing 
to return in time. Ringrose indeed asserts that not 
68 Englishmen were engaged against a Spanish fleet 
which must have carried at least 200 men on the 
armadilloes alone. In fact, the Spanish ships were 
unwisely overcrowded. 

As the canoes approached in line, the three arma- 
dilloes advanced boldly to meet them, and the first, 
commanded by Don Diego de Carabanal, broke through 
the English line, firing destructive broadsides to right 
and left as she passed. But as the Admiral, Don 
Jacinto de Barahona, attempted to follow, a shot from 
one of the canoes killed his helmsman, so that his ship 
ran into the wind and lay for a moment helpless, just 
between the canoe commanded by Sawkins and that in 
which Ringrose was. Instantly the canoes clustered 
round the Spaniard like angry wasps. The buccaneers 
discharged volley after volley from their small arms into 
the Admiral’s crowded decks. The third armadillo 
approaching in its turn was met by Sawkins ’s canoe. 

7 + 


■which closed with it, and a desperate struggle ensued. 
A powder barrel exploded in the Spanish ship, throwing 
several men overboard, whereupon the gallant captain, 
Don Peralta, though himself badly burned about the 
hands, sprang into the water and rescued them. Imme- 
diately afterwards, however, there was another explosion, 
and Sawkins, a dashing leader, taking instant advantage 
of the confusion, succeeded in boarding the ship and 
forcing the survivors to surrender. In the meantime, 
the Admiral had been killed and his ship boarded by 
Coxon and Harris, the latter of whom was shot through 
both legs and mortally wounded. Here, too, the 
Spaniards surrendered. The slaughter had been ter- 
rible. On Captain Peralta’s ship only twenty-five 
Spaniards were left alive out of eighty-six. 

The buccaneers had lost eighteen killed and twenty- 
two wounded. But apart from this loss in man power, 
which they could ill aferd, they had eveiy reason to be 
satisfied with their performance. They now possessed 
two roomy and convenient vessels in which to go 
a-cruising in the South Seas ; and they had evidently 
produced a considerable moral effect, for it is to 
be noticed that the first armadillo, after breaking 
through their line, was careful not to return to help its 
consort ; while the three “ great ships,” one of which 
had a crew of 300 men, sat tight in the harboiu*, and 
never even came out. The captured Spaniard, Captain 
Peralta, “ would often break out in admiration of our 
valour,” declaring that Englishmen were “ the valiantest 
men in the whole world, who designed always to fight 
open, whilst all other nations invented all the ways 
imaginable to barricade themselves and fight as close as 
they could.” 

After this engagement, the buccaneers landed on the 
island of Perico, partly to bury Captain Harris and other 
dead, and partly to rest themselves, and wait for the 


arrival of Sharp, with whom, I think, was Dampier. It 
should be mentioned that, after the affair at Santa Maria, 
the smooth-tongued Sharp had been deposed from the 
chief command,^ which was given to Coxon. Sharp 
says that this was done as a bribe to induce Coxon to 
continue with the expedition, he being a discontented, 
quarrelsome fellow, who was always threatening to turn 
back. That description of Coxon is true enough. On 
one occasion, he had attempted to murder Harris by 
shooting at him in consequence of some altercation. He 
now became more troublesome than ever, and, finally, 
left the expedition with his company, announcing his 
intention of returning overland by the way they had 
come. His departure was particularly discreditable, for 
he left many of his wounded on their hands, and he took 
away with him the best surgeon and nearly all the 
medicines they had. Sawkins, the popular hero of the 
sea-fight, was appointed in his stead. The buccaneers 
were a discontented, mutinous, muddle-headed crowd, 
who changed their .commanders every few months just 
for the sake of change ; but they knew a brave man 
when they saw one. They seem also to have been 
genuinely fond of Sawkins. He never had to face the 
familiar charge of trying to cheat his men. 

The buccaneers remained near Panama for ten days, 
during which time they captured several Spanish mer- 
chant ships, and sent away “ all the meanest of the 
prisoners ” on one of them. Then they moved on to 
some of the other islands, making further captures as 
they went. In the interval, Sawkins exchanged messages 
with the Governor of Panama, from whom he demanded 
a heavy tribute and a promise “ not any further to annoy 
the Indians.” The Governor, in reply, demanded to 

^ Ringrose says for his “ backwardness in the fight,” but these words are 
deliberately suppressed by Hacke in the published version of Ringrose’s 
narrative ! 



see his commission ; whereupon Sawkins answered, with 
a fine Elizabethan flourish, “ That as yet all his company 
were not come together ; but that when they were 
come up we would come and visit him at Panama, and 
bring our Commissions on the muzzles of our guns, at 
which time he should read them as plain as the flame 
of gunpowder could make them.” 

But no such triumph was in store for poor Sawkins. 
Shortly after this, growing tired of wandering among 
the islands, the buccaneers determined to make an attack 
in force upon the town of Puebla Nueva, near the mouth 
of the river on the mainland. They found the Spaniards 
well prepared. For a mile below the town, they had 
blocked the river with fallen trees, and they had raised 
three strong breastworks before the town itself.^ At- 
tacking with their usual impetuosity, the buccaneers met 
with a severe repulse. They could not reach the breast- 
works, and Sawkins, their leader, and many others were 
shot dead (May 25th, 1680). 

Dampier, who briefly describes the engagement, came 
off as usual without a scratch. But the death of Sawkins 
was a terrible blow : “a man,” says Ringrose, “ as valiant 
as any could be.” ^ He was not only a first-class 
buccaneer, but a person of high principles, and a strict 
Sabbatarian. Sundays were always observed on his 
ships. It is of him that Ringrose tells the curious story 
that, as he walked the decks one Sunday morning, he 
observed to his horror certain members of his crew 
engaged in play, and of how he immediately seized the 
dice and threw them overboard, declaring that “ he 
would have no gambling aboard his ship.” As to his 

^ Sharp says that a “ renegade Frenchman ” showed the inhabitants 
how to build these defences. The use of the word “ renegade ” is 
inter^ting as showing the attitude of other nationalities towards the 
Spanish in the West. 

® And Hacke adds : “ next to Captain Sharp ” ! 


courage, even Sharp, the deposed commander, usually 
a most ungenerous critic, refers regretfully to the death 
of “ the brave Captain Sawkins.” Evidently a great 
“ character,” who might have become one of the most 
famous of all the buccaneers, had he lived. 

It was not easy to replace him, and fresh dissensions 
immediately broke out. Sharp went aboard “ La Trini- 
dad,” the biggest of the captured armadilloes, and there 
with his usual eloquence addressed the assembled 
buccaneers, setting forth the facts of the situation. 
Would they stay with him or attempt the overland 
march again back to their ships } At the conclusion of 
his speech, those who from motives of loyalty or greed, 
or merely because (like Ringrose) they were afraid to 
trust themselves among the Indians ashore, had re- 
solved to remain under his command, were distributed 
among the various ships ; while the malcontents, to the 
number of sixty-three, returned homewards in Coxon’s 
footsteps, taking with them the remainder of the Indians. 
Dampier, as always, chose the adventurous course, not 
because he had any respect for Sharp, but in the hope 
of new experiences. It is possible that he may have 
had some influence on the next important decision, 
which was to leave the neighbourhood of Panama, and 
sail southward for the coast of Peru. 

The principal commanders were now Sharp, Cook and 
John Cox, one of the chroniclers of the voyage, who had 
been given the command of a prize. Ringrose describes 
him as “ a kinsman of Captain Sharp.” ^ The captured 
Spaniard, Captain Peralta, was still with them, and seems 
to have acted very willingly as their pilot. 

The southward voyage began on June 6th, and on 

^ But Hacfce alters Ringrose’s text to read : “ John Cox, an inhabitant 
of New England, who forced kindred, as was thought, upon Captain 
Sharp, out of old acquaintance, in this conjuncture of time, only to 
advance himself.” 



the 17th they came in sight of the island of Gorgona,^ 
where they went ashore, and regaled themselves on a 
varied menu of “ Indian conies, monkeys, snakes, oysters, 
conches, periwinkles and a few small turtle, with some 
other sorts of good fish.” Here too they cut away the 
roundhouse and upper works of the poop on the 
“ Trinidad,” which were built very high in the Spanish 
manner, also “ all the high carved work belonging to 
the stern of the ship, for when we took her from the 
Spaniards before Panama she was high as any third- 
rate ship in England ” — i.e. much too high for her size, 
according to English ideas of seamanship. Sailing on 
southward, with the intention of attacking the town of 
Arica on the mainland near Tacna, they had the mis- 
fortune to part company with Cox’s ship, which was not 
seen again for a month, when they found him at anchor 
off the Isle of Plate. Here they killed a number of 
tortoises ^ and goats for salting. 

Leaving this island, they sighted a Spanish merchant 
ship, gave chase and captured her after a stiff fight. 
They found 3276 pieces-of-eight on board ; but for 
some reason this does not seem to have improved their 
tempers, for two days later they disgraced themselves 
by murdering an unfortunate priest who had been chap- 
lain of the prize, shooting him and “ casting him over- 
board before he was dead.” Rin^rose (and we can 
believe him) “ abhorred such cruelties,” but dared not 
interfere. Dampier, who must have shared his senti- 
ments, never mentions the incident, nor does he even 
allude to any of the captures made at sea. It has been 
assumed by his biographers that this was because he 

^ According to one of Hacke’s interpolations in Ringrose, Sharp had 
the cool cheek to change the name Gorgona into Sharp Island.” Sharp 
himself says nothing of it. 

® The inevitable Hacke rushes in with the assertion that Captain 
Sharp showed himself especially “ ingenious in striking them,” 


was ashamed of them ; but in regard to the mere capture 
of Spanish ships, I think it more reasonable to accept 
his own explanation, which is that he had not space for 
details, having deliberately decided to compress this part 
of his voyage “ in this short compass,” and hurry on to 
later events of more importance from the point of view 
of geographical exploration. That he saw nothing 
wrong in taking Spanish ships in peace time is shown 
by his frank allusions to such captures in other parts of 
his writings. He was much too honest a chronicler to 
“ doctor ” his records. 

Unfortunately, pieces-of-eight are of little use upon 
the high seas, and a week later the buccaneers found 
themselves so short of provisions that they were reduced 
to an allowance of “ only two draughts of water ” each 
day. They captured a small Spanish ship, but as it 
was necessary to cut away all her masts except one, lest 
she should reach the coast ahead of them and give 
warning of their coming, they had not the heart to 
deprive her crew of their water supply, and so sailed on 
towards Arica thirstier than ever.^ On September 29th 
their rations were still further reduced to three and a 
half pints of water and one cake of boiled bread. 

On October 26th they at last arrived off Arica, and 
sent in their canoes in the hope of surprising the place. 
But they found “ a general alarm through the whole 
country,” six ships riding at anchor with their guns 
ready, and a large force drawn up to oppose their landing. 
So they landed at another point, farther up the coast, 
and sacked the small town of Hilo, carrying off quantities 
of provisions in full view of a force of mounted Spaniards 
who looked feebly on.® Unfortunately these provisions 

1 Ordinary pirates would have felt no such compunction. 

^ It turned out afterwards, however, that they were mere boys, half 
of them unarmed, and commanded, surprisingly, by a local English 



included very little fresh meat, and when the southward 
voyage was resumed, it was found that the crews were 
suffering from scurvy. But they had luckily seized a 
small quantity of chocolate, “ whereof the Spaniards 
make infinite use,” and it was presently discovered that 
“ a dish of this pleasant liquor ” — ^yet so strange to the 
buccaneering palate — ^was an efficacious remedy, if taken 
first thing every morning.^ 

They now fetched a compass, and, giving Arica a 
wide berth, steered S.S.E. for the town of La Serena on 
the mainland, some six hundred miles farther south. 
Arriving there on December 2nd, they landed in their 
canoes, and advanced against the town, which turned 
out to be a considerable place, containing seven churches. 
But once again the Spaniards (who must have out- 
numbered the buccaneers by at least five to one) had 
been warned of their approach, and had fled, taking 
with them “ the most precious of their goods and jewels ” 
and everything else they could carry. They had also 
killed most of their Chilean slaves, in order to save them 
from the temptation to help the invaders ! In these 
circumstances, the disappointed buccaneers must have 
found the empty town of La Serena serene to the point 
of boredom ; and they would probably have destroyed 
it out of hand if the Spaniards had not sent in a flag of 
truce on the following morning, offering to ransom the 
place rather than see it burnt. But it was only a ruse ; 
and after two days of profitless haggling the English 
marched back to their ships, contemptuously brushing 
aside a Spanish ambuscade which they encountered on 
the way. They found that in their absence an ingenious 
attempt had been made to burn their principal ship. 
Ringrose gives the following account of this stratagem : 

“ They (the Spaniards) blew up a horse’s hide like a 
1 Some thirty years later we find Shelvocke’s men drinking it regularly. 


bladder, and upon this float a man ventured to swim 
from shore and come under the stern of our ship. Being 
arrived there, he crammed oakum and brimstone and 
other combustible matter between the rudder and the 
stern-post. Having done this, he fired it with a match, 
so that in a small time our rudder was on fire, and all 
the ship in a smoke. Our men, both alarmed and 
amazed, with this smoke, ran up and down the ship, 
suspecting the prisoners to have fired the vessel, thereby 
to get their liberty and seek our destruction. At last 
Aey found out where the fire was, and had the good 
fortune to quench it, before its going too far. As soon 
as they had put it out, they sent the boat ashore, and 
found both the hide aforementioned, and the match 
burning at both ends, whereby they became acquainted 
with the whole matter.” 

Having concluded this gallant but profitless affair, 
the buccaneers drew off surlily from the coast, and sailed 
for the island of Juan Fernandez to refit. This, as it 
turned out, was their “ farthest south.” The inevitable 
quarrels broke out afresh. Sharp attributes the whole 
trouble to “that dissembling New Englander,” John 
Cox. Cox, on the other hand, says that the men 
having now plenty to eat and drink, “ nothing will serve 
their turn but a new commander ” ; so “ a party of 
refractory fellows ” went ashore and signed a paper to 
put in Watling instead of Sharp. This Watling was an 
old buccaneer, a rough, blustering bully, with little else 
to recommend him. The first thing he did was to put 
his colleague, Capt. Cook, in irons, on a disgraceful 
charge. Another of his gestures was to insist upon the 
strict observance of Sundays, which had been allowed 
to lapse since Sawkins’s death. Then he sailed north, 
direct for Arica, their original objective, determined to 
crack that hard nut or die in the attempt. His departure 



was hastened by a rumour that Spanish warships were 
approaching to intercept him. 

The more educated members of the party, such as 
Dampier and Ringrose, seem to have doubted this new 
leadership from the start. At Iquique they took some 
prisoners, and Watling, doubting the information given 
by one of them, had him summarily shot.^ Three days’ 
sail brought them to Arica, and Watling at once made 
preparations to attack. The date was January 30th, the 
anniversary of the martyrdom of King Charles I, and 
Cox attributed the ensuing failure to this unfortunate 
choice of date. Dampier points out that Arica was “ a 
strong town advantageously situated,” and hardly to be 
taken by so small a body of men, except on a surprise. 
Watling, however, as ignorant of sentimental as of 
military considerations, advanced boldly to the attack. 
Forty men were detailed to attack the fort. The main 
body stormed the principal breastwork, but immediately 
came luider a heavy fire from three other breastworks 
which commanded it. “ We faced about,” says Cox, 
“ and with a small party of men took them (the breast- 
works) also.” He adds significantly that they “ left the 
party that guarded them all fast asleep that they might 
do no further mischief, for they were of a copper com- 
plexion which never give quarter themselves.” 

Abandoning the attack upon the fort, the English 
now stormed through the streets of the town, losing 
heavily, but taking so many prisoners that they hardly 
knew what to do with them. All the time the fort 
kept firing vigorously, and the enemy, rallying in the 
houses, surrounded them on every side. From every 

^ Here Hacke interposes with a theatrical story of how Sharp, the 
deposed commander, “took water and washed his hands, saying : ‘ Gentle- 
men, I am clear of the blood of this old man.’ ” There is nothing of the 
sort in Ringrose’s original MS., and it probably never happened, though 
the action would certainly be characteristic of Sharp. 


window and doorway came a hail of missiles. It was a 
hopeless situation. Watling was killed ; and Sharp then 
took command, and conducted an orderly retreat from 
the town, leaving behind only their surgeons, who had 
somehow managed to get gloriously drunk, and could 
not be found. And so, being “ such a small parcel of 
our men and the enemy’s horse quite round us, we got 
our disabled men into the middle, and in good order 
marched down to our canoes and boats, but with heavy 
hearts to think we should leave so much plate behind us.” ^ 

This successful retreat did something to restore Sharp’s 
credit ; but it was a sadly disgruntled party which took 
ship once more, and sailed to the north. They landed 
at Hilo again, and stole some wine and figs and sugar 
by way of revenge. Embarking again, Cox records 
more grumbles from those people who were “ every day 
for a new broom.” A shortage of water accentuated 
this discontent, and by the time they reached the island 
of Plate, on April 17th, 1681, matters had come to a 
head. Dampier, who now suddenly comes into promi- 
nence, explains that “ a great number of the meaner 
sort ” were for reinstating Sharp in the command, but 
“ the abler and more experienced men, being altogether 
dissatisfied with Sharp’s former conduct, would by no 
means consent to have him chosen.” Reconciliation 
was impossible, and it was finally decided that they must 
part company, by putting the matter to the vote, the 
majority to retain the ships, and the minority to return 
overland with their canoes to the western seas. On a 
division, the ayes had it, and Sharp, for the last time, 
took command. The loyal, deluded Cox of course 
remained with him. 

Dampier thereupon publicly declared his mind, 
“ which I had hitherto kept to myself,” and joined the 
land party. Wafer, the surgeon (not one of those who 

1 Cor. 



had got drunk at Arica), was also in the minority — “ I 

was of Mr. Dampier’s side in that matter,” he says so 

were the two Cooks, Captain Edmund and plain John. 
Ringrose, however, unable to get over his fear of the 
“ wild Indians ” on shore, elected to stay with Sharp. 
We part from him regretfully. In 1682 he paid a brief 
visit to England, in company with his commander, and 
must then have given his journal into the printer’s hands. 
But long before its publication in 1684, he had sailed 
as supercargo with Charles Swan, and he never saw 
England again. 



OR the third time in the course of this 
brief narrative, a party of English buc- 
caneers sets out to cross that dangerous 
and pestiferous isthmus of Darien, 
Unless you cross by the Panama Canal, 
it is hardly less dangerous and pestiferous 
to-day, so that lady travellers who 
happen to have been there write exciting 
books on the subject (just as Dampier and Wafer and 
Ringrose did), emphasizing the fact that they were the 
first civilized women to visit the place, and laying special 
stress upon the numbers of alligators in the swamps, the 
jaguars that prowl through the forests, and those mysteri- 
ous tribes of white Indians, as to whose existence the 
best scientific opinion seems to be still in some doubt. 
The buccaneer chroniclers, by the way, frequently 
mention white Indians — ^though whether they really saw 
whole tribes of them, or were deceived by the appearance 
of an unusual number of albinos, I cannot say. It is a 
subject better left to the anthropologists. 

On this occasion the travellers numbered forty-four 
white men who bore arms ; a Spanish Indian, also 
armed ; two Mosquito Indians, always greatly valued 
on such occasions for their skill in catching fish or 
turtles ; and “ five slaves taken in the South Seas, who 
feU to our share.” We are to imagine the two Mos- 




quitos dressed in European clothes of the period of 
Charles II, which must rather have cramped their style 
as hunters. But Dampier tells us that they were so 
pro-British that, when serving with Englishmen, they 
made a point of putting on English clothes, though their 
costume at ordinary times consisted only of a “ piece of 
linen ” tied about their waists. I quote from Dampier’s 
journal, which now becomes our chief authority, being 
full and clear and reliable, as he always is when he sets 
out to describe an adventure at length. 

They started about two o’clock in the morning on 
April 17th, 1681, being twelve leagues north-west from 
the isle of Plate where they had left Captain Sharp. 
They travelled in a launch or long-boat, one sound canoe, 
and another canoe which had been cut in halves with the 
idea of making it into water-barrels, and was now pre- 
cariously joined together again. They had fitted these 
vessels with sails, and loaded them with as much flour 
as they could carry, and twenty or thirty pounds of 
chocolate and sugar to sweeten it withal. “ These things 
and a kettle ” it was intended that the slaves should 
“ carry on their backs ” after they had landed ; “ and 
because there were some who designed to go with us 
that we knew were not well able to march, we gave out 
that if any Man faltered in the Journey over Land he 
must expect to be shot to Death ; for we knew that the 
Spaniards would soon be after us, and one man falling 
into their hands might be the ruin of us all, by giving 
an account of our Strength and Condition.” ^ 

The isle of Plate lies about six hundred miles as the 
crow flies from the isthmus of Darien, and the buccaneers 
had an unpleasant journey thither, the winds being 
mostly contrary, with heavy showers of rain. On the 
1 8 th, they captured a Spanish barque, and took her 
along with them. On the 25th they lost the second 
^ A good example of Dampier’s compressed, yet fluent, style. 



canoe, which was a serious inconvenience, for it was 
feared that the barque might be unsuitable for river 
work ; and, on the 30th, they entered the Gulf of San 
Miguel, and anchored near the mouth of the river, under 
cover of a large island. There they got intelligence of a 
Spanish ship, with a hundred and fifty men on board, 
waiting for them at the river’s mouth, and of two other 
heavily armed Spaniards which cruised in the Bay, 
looking for them. Thereupon Dampier’s companions 
lost their nerve, and though he urged them with all the 
eloquence at his command to attempt another river called 
the Congo in their canoes, they insisted upon landing 
immediately, while they were still unobserved, and sijiking 
all their boats to avoid detection. So they hurriedly 
rowed ashore and landed their clothes and provisions, 
while the Mosquito Indians caught a “ plentiful dish of 
fish,” upon which — seated on the beach — they dined. 

At this point, Dampier interjects a description of the 
Mosquito Indians, of whom he held a high opinion. 
If properly trained and led by Europeans, they make 
stout soldiers. “ They are in general very civil and 
kind to the English,” and we, on our part, “ always 
humour them, letting them go any whither as they will, 
and return to their own country in any vessel bound 
that way, if they please.” They are keen to speak 
English, and “ take the Governor of Jamaica to be one 
of the greatest Princes in the World.” 

On the 2nd May, the party began their march, 
stopping in the evening at a small Indian village to 
purchase some native food (“ fowls and peccary ”) for 
their dinner. This they ate all together, “ having all 
sorts of our provisions in common, because none should 
live better than others, or pay dearer for anything than 
it was worth.” One of these Indians accompanied them 
next day as far as the house of a countryman who could 
speak Spanish, and gave them some rough directions 



for their journey. That morning a nameless English- 
man deserted from the company, “ being tired.” 

Their average day’s march at this time was between 
six and eight miles, but no doubt the way was hard. 
For another forty-eight hours they struggled on, rations 
becoming so short that there was no other topic of 
conversation ; and they quite forgot their fear of the 
Spaniards. On the sixth day of the march, an unfortu- 
nate accident happened to the surgeon. Wafer. His 
knee was seriously “ scorched ” by the accidental ignition 
of some gunpowder, and marching became a torture to 
him. His companions allowed him a slave to carry his 
medicine chest and personal belongings, “ being all of 
us the more concerned at the accident,” says Dampier 
frankly, “ because liable ourselves every moment to mis- 
fortune, and none to look after us but him.” 

That evening they crossed a river, and then came to 
another winding stream which they had to ford several 
times, though it was deep. Dampier, foreseeing such 
obstacles, had provided himself with a thick piece of 
bamboo, sealed at each end, and swam the river, pushing 
it in front of him. Best of all, he had the forethought 
to place his precious journal and other papers inside it, 
thus preserving them from the wet. Two of the com- 
pany fell behind in the course of this day and never 
rejoined. The rest spent a damp evening ; to add to 
their discomfort, it rained “ extraordinarily hard,” with 
much thunder and lightning. Finally their slaves, taking 
advantage of the darkness, decamped in a body, including 
the fellow with Wafer’s medicine chest. The unfortu- 
nate surgeon could no longer dress his wound, and 
found the going heavier than ever. 

Next day they had to cross a swollen river, and, in 
trying to get a rope to the opposite bank, a man named 
Gayny was drowned, being weighed down by a bag 
containing three hundred dollars, which was strapped to 


his back. A little later they found his body ; but it is 
significant of their condition that they did not even 
trouble to take away the gold, “ being only in care how 
to work our way through an unknown country.” In 
the afternoon they reached a pleasanter district, and 
marched more at their ease. Here they bade farewell 
to the Spanish Indian, who turned back towards his 
home ; and here they met many other Indians who 
were kind and helpful. After a fortnight’s rest, they 
rose betimes one morning and prepared to resume their 

Wafer, however, could go no farther. He and two 
other men, named Hingson and Gopson,^ who now fell 
out from the effects of exhaustion, had therefore to be 
left behind, as the surgeon pathetically puts it, “ among 
the wild Indians in the isthmus of Darien.” It is hardly 
necessary to add that the rigorous order about shooting 
all laggards was not enforced against them. On the 
contrary, ” the company took a very kind leave of us ” — 
no doubt expecting that it would be the last. The others 
pressed on, accompanied by some friendly Indians. The 
details of each day’s journey are carefully recorded in 
Dampier’s diary, and need not be repeated here. They 
shot monkeys and wild turkeys for their food, and were 
greatly assisted by the Indians whom they met. One 
old man who was carrying a load of plantains distributed 
the fruit among the hungry buccaneers, and departed 
empty-handed, asking no reward but their thanks. On 
the twentieth day, they crossed the Chepo river, climbed 
a high mountain, and from its summit, “ to our great 
comfort,” saw the Northern sea. 

Two more days brought them to the coast, where 
they eagerly inquired of the Indians what ships had been 
seen in the neighbourhood. They were told that there 
was a French privateer now lying at La Soundes Key, 

1 Sometimes spelt ‘‘ Gobson,” which hardly improves matters. 



an island of the Samballas group, about three leagues 
distant, and on the 24th May they put off in canoes 
and went on board this French vessel, where they were 
affably received by the commander, one Captain Tristian. 
Their Indian guides were still with them, and the 
buccaneers very properly “ resolved to reward them to 
their hearts’ content.” They therefore made a levy 
among themselves of half-a-dollar a man, and with the 
money purchased all the beads, knives, scissors, looking- 
glasses and other “ toys ” that Captain Tristian possessed. 
The Indians were delighted, and “ returned with joy to 
their friends ” — a fortunate circumstance, as it turned 
out, for Wafer and the others who had been left behind. 

Thus ended this toilsome overland march of no 
miles, which, as Dampier remarks, might have been fifty 
miles shorter and have occupied less than half the time, if 
they had landed from the South Seas at the proper place. 

We now enter upon a new stage in Dampier ’s associa- 
tion with the buccaneers. He is so reticent about him- 
self, while so informative about everything else, that it 
is impossible to say whether he was actually advanced 
in rank, but it is plain that he was now a man of some 
little weight among them. He seems conscious of his 
own superiority. Behind his quiet manner there is a 
complete self-confidence — ^more, perhaps, than was ever 
quite justified by the results. 

Captain Tristian, soon after the arrival of the English- 
men, weighed anchor, and sailed to Springer’s Key, 
another of the Samballas Islands, where he found a fleet 
of eight privateers, consisting of four English vessels, 
commanded by Coxon ^ (whom we have met before), 

^ This reappearance of the quarrelsome Coxon seems to have been 
unacconnubly missed even by such careful historians as Mr. Philip Gosse 
and Mr. Masefield. Mr. Gosse makes him cross the isthmus with 
Dampier’s party, whereas, as we have seen, he did the journey just a 
year before. 



Payne, Wright and Williams ; one Dutchman, under 
a Captain Yanky, or Yankes ; and three Frenchmen. 
All the other commanders came on board Tristian’s ship, 
when they heard whom he had with him, and Dampier 
says that the English in particular were “ overjoyed to 
see us.” In fact, there was a merry reunion, Coxon 
having most of his old company with him ; and we 
may be sure that no one was so tactless as to mention 
the disappearance of that medicine-chest twelve months 
before ! 

It now appeared that the privateers were contemplating 
another march overland against the town of Panama, 
and they closely questioned the new arrivals as to their 
chances of success, the condition of the rivers that 
would have to be crossed, and so forth. What they 
heard, says Dampier, “ disheartened them quite from 
that design.” Several other plans were proposed, and 
debate ran high. 

It seems that these buccaneers had an excellent intelli- 
gence department. Whenever they took any prisoners, 
they examined them at length, and they made a point 
of comparing the different statements thus obtained, so 
that they now knew the strength of every Spanish town 
upon the coast, the nature of the surrounding country, 
and where the “ look-outs or sentinels ” were placed. 

At last it was decided to rendezvous at the small 
island of S. Andreas, near Providence Island, with a 
view to an expedition against the mainland. On the 
way they encountered a gale which scattered the fleet. 
Dampier and his companions, much to their disgust, 
had been transferred to another French ship, because it 
happened to be the only one of the privateers not 
already overmanned. They liked their new commander. 
Captain Archembo, well enough, but the French seamen 
were “ the saddest creatures that ever I was among.” 
When the weather was rough, the “ biggest part of 



them never stirred out of their hammocks but to eat or 
ease themselves.” When, therefore, Archembo reached 
the rendezvous, and found only Wright there, with a 
Spanish tartane^ which he had just captured, the English- 
men of Dampier’s party went to Wright, and told him 
plainly that, as independent privateers, they refused to 
remain with Archembo, and would go ashore and build 
canoes for themselves, unless he (Wright) would take 
them over. The English captain hesitated, being afraid 
to offend the French ; but the tartane was capable of 
carrying thirty men, and he at last agreed to put them 
into it as a prize crew, if they came to him as one ship’s 

So it was concluded, and Captain Wright, with his 
prize, sailed to Bluefield’s River, where the tartane was 
careened, and Dampier went hunting with some Mosquito 
Indians, whose method of harpooning the manatee seems 
to have fascinated him. Sailing from there, they fell 
in with Captain Yanky, who told them that there had 
been a fleet of Spanish armadilloes in pursuit of the 
buccaneers, and that Tristian had sailed into the midst 
of them, mistaking them for his friends, but had got 
away, somewhat scarred. Payne and Williams had also 
been chased, so that the privateers were now hopelessly 
scattered, and Wright and Yanky decided to cruise 
together on their own account. One evening in August 
they arrived off La Soundes Key, and fired their guns 
as a signal to the Indians on the mainland, hoping to 
get some news of the men whom Dampier’s party had 
left behind four months before. Soon a number of 
canoes approached, and as the Indians climbed on board, 
they were delighted to recognize among them Hingson, 
Gopson, and two other men who had dropped out at 
an earlier stage of the march. 

But where was Wafer.? As a matter of fact, the 
worthy surgeon had prepared a little surprise for his 


friends. He here takes up the story himself. While 
the other Englishmen were being welcomed, the Indians 
squatted on the deck after their fashion. Wafer, naked 
like Aem, with his body painted and “ my nose-piece 
hanging over my mouth,” sat quietly among them, 
“ cringing upon my hams,” and no doubt hugely enjoy- 
ing the joke. Suddenly one of the English crew recog- 
nized him, exclaiming, “ Here ’s our doctor ! ” It was 
a great moment in the career of Lionel Wafer. 

Wafer had a good story to tell. He had won much 
credit with the Indians, owing to his skill in blood- 
letting ; for this was a cure which the native doctors 
also practised, but very clumsily, their method being to 
shoot light and specially constructed arrows into the 
unfortunate patient’s skin, until it bristled like a porcu- 
pine’s. Wafer soon became physician-in-chief among 
them, and found it necessary to conform to many of 
their customs, especially in the matter of dress. Finally, 
he demanded that he and his companions should be 
taken down to the coast, and put on board the first 
European ship that came in sight, and so strong was 
his influence that the Indians at last consented. The 
other Englishmen had not accommodated themselves so 
well to the Indian mode of life. Poor Richard Gopson 
came on board ill and exhausted, and died a few days 
later. Dampier now struck up a close friendship with 
Wafer, for whom he had evidently acquired a new respect. 
Henceforward in his writings, he frequently refers for 
information about the natives to “ Mr. Wafer’s book ” ; 
and among his papers are some useful contributions 
marked as by “ the chyrugeon,” or from “ M. de la 
Wafer’s observations which he made when he was left 
behinde in the midst of the country amongst the salvage 

Wright and Yanky, pursuing their voyage eastward 
along the northern coast of South America, passed by 



the famous city of Cartagena, “ a place of incredible 
wealth,”^ and sailing so insolently close to the shore 
that they had “ a fair view ” of its great monastery and 
its churches. Dampier pauses to have a hit at the 
alleged miraculous powers of Our Lady of Cartagena ; 
“ Any Misfortune that befalls the Privateers is attri- 
buted to this Lady’s doing ; and the Spaniards report 
that she was aboard that Night the ‘ Oxford ’ Man-of- 
War was blown up at the Isle of Vacca, near Hispaniola, 
and that she came home all wet ; as belike she often 
returns with her cloathes dirty and torn with passing 
through Woods and bad ways, when she has been out 
on any Expedition ; deserving doubtless a new Suit for 
such eminent Pieces of Service.” Still steering east, 
they passed the towns of Santa Marta and La Hacha — 
the latter once a considerable place, but so often sacked 
by the buccaneers that the inhabitants had temporarily 
deserted it. It now lay empty and bleaching in the 
sun — a reproach to everyone concerned. Turning back, 
they sighted a Spanish ship and went in pursuit. Wright 
was the first to come up with the chase, and he engaged 
her until Yanky joined him, when they boarded her 
together and made her their prize. 

At once a quarrel broke out, both captains claiming 
the ship. Most of the men, rather surprisingly, took 
Yanky’s side, though Wright had obviously the better 
claim ; but Dampier explains that Yanky held a com- 
mission from the French authorities which gave a 
semblance of legality to his acts (he might call himself 
a French privateer) whereas Wright had none, and the 
men were afraid that if he took the prize into port to 
dispose of it, they might all be arrested as pirates. 
Matters were arranged on the basis of a kind of “general 

^ When the French took it, sixteen years later, they obtained over a 
million of money from the town. 



post.” Yanky went on board the prize, and Wright 
took over Yanky’s ship, burning his former vessel, which 
was small and unserviceable. He also sold the tartane 
to a passing Jamaica trader, and added Dampier and the 
others to his own crew. 

They visited the Dutch island of Curafoa, with the 
object of selling the cargo of sugar which they had 
found on the prize ; and here Dampier heard of the 
disaster which had lately befallen an old ally of his, the 
French Admiral D’Estr^es. He had been sent against 
the Dutch West Indies in 1678, with a French squadron 
and one or two French “ privateers ” ; but ran ashore 
on the rocks of the island of Aves, and all his ships were 
lost. Most of the men, however, got to shore, and the 
privateers, according to the stories told to Dampier, had 
made themselves very comfortable after their fashion, 
there being plenty of wine and brandy washed up from 
the wrecks, or still to be found in their shattered hulls. 
We get one memorable snapshot : “ There were about 
forty Frenchmen on board in one of the Ships where 
there was good store of Liquor, till the after part of her 
broke away and floated over the Riff, and was carry’d 
away to Sea, with all the Men drinking and singing, 
who being in drink did not mind the Danger, but were 
never heard of after-wards.” Wright got two guns out 
of the wrecks that were still there, and careened his 
ship on the island of Aves, where he remained till 
February, 1682. The Dutch authorities having refused 
to buy his sugar, he sold it all to a passing French war- 
ship. On board the Frenchman there were two ofiicers 
who seem to have taken a fancy to Dampier, for they 
“ offered me great encouragement in France, if I would 
go with them.” He must have been a noticeable figure 
in that stupid, riff-raif crew. It probably puzzled the 
Frenchmen (as it puzzles us to-day) that he should be 
so obviously out of his element, and in a junior position 



too, and yet so apparently contented. It astonished 
them, no doubt, when he quietly refused their offer, 
giving as his reason that “ I ever designed to continue 
with those of my own nation.” But that was Dampier 
all over. He hated personal explanations. He would 
have died sooner than admit that he was still pursuing 
a schoolboy dream of adventure. 

In April the buccaneers were at La Tortuga and 
Blanquila, Dampier taking voluminous notes all the time. 
He observes the many and rapid changes that took place 
“ in these parts,” local industries appearing and dis- 
appearing in the course of a month or two ; and whole 
cities being swallowed up by the jungle, while their 
names still figured large on the map. In regard to one 
of them, called Nombre de Dios, he says, “ I have lain 
ashore in the place where that city stood ; but it is all 
overgrown with wood, so as to leave no sign that any 
Town hath been there.” At Tortuga, where the men 
were “ drunk and quarrelling ” all the time, Wright 
and Yanky finally parted company — or, as Wafer puts 
it, “ Captain Yanky left Mr. Dampier.” Wafer went 
with Yanky, Dampier with Wright. 

The remainder of Wright’s cruise is of no great 
interest, apart from Dampier’s lively descriptions of the 
different places they visited. He had, of course, a genius 
for writing travel notes. In one of the many bays of 
the northern coast, which he does not name, but which 
must have been somewhere near Cumana, they captured 
three small Spanish barques, and having apportioned 
their spoils, which were now considerable, they divided 
the company among the ships, each of which shaped 
its course independently. Dampier and twenty others 
took one of the prizes, and decided to sail direct for 
Virginia, where they hoped to dispose of their goods. 
They had an uneventful voyage, and in July, 1682, 
arrived safely in the English colony of Virginia, which. 


as Dampier remarks, “is so well known to our nation 
that I shall say nothing of it.” 

Of Dampier’s life in Virginia we know next to nothing. 
He lived there for just over a year, and it is not un- 
reasonable to suppose that he would send home for his 
wife, since he was now comparatively prosperous. But 
he says nothing of this. Women played but a very 
small part in his life. With his usual tantalizing 
modesty, he declines to “ detain the reader with the 
story of my own affairs.” All we know is that he had 
“ trouble,” and it is not difficult to guess at the nature 
of that. We are now in the transition stage between 
the brave days of the buccaneers and of ordinary common- 
or-garden piracy. The authorities are beginning to 
look askance at “ privateer ” captains who sail the seas 
without commissions ; and it will be remembered that 
Wright had none. (It was for this reason that the 
Dutch governor of Curagoa had refused to buy his sugar 
from him.) Awkward questions may have been asked 
about the origin of the goods which Dampier had for 
sale, and he may have found it necessary to get rid of 
them unostentatiously, and at a heavy loss, as seems to 
have happened to Wafer and others at a later date. But 
all this is supposition. At any rate, when he left 
Virginia on his next voyage, he was apparently a poor 
man once again. We may, however, hazard the guess 
that if it had not been for this money trouble, whatever 
it was, he would at this point have severed his connection 
with the buccaneers, instead of sailing with them on 
another voyage. 

Dampier’s next voyage took him round the world. 
It started in curious circumstances. In April, 1683, 
there arrived in Virginia, where Dampier was living 
with only his “ troubles ” for company, a party of English- 
men who had been with Captain Yanky, and had since 
had a remarkable series of adventures. They were led 




by John Cook,^ who, we now learn from Dampier, was 
a Creole and also a “ sensible man.” They told Dampier 
that Cook had been given the command of one of 
Yanky’s prizes, and had sailed in her ; but that while 
he and Yanky, and some French privateers, including 
Tristian, were at the island of Vacca, the foreigners had 
plundered the English of their ship, goods and arms, 
and turned them ashore. Tristian, however, in a moment 
of weakness, had consented to keep eight or ten of them, 
including Cook and Davis, on his ship ; and these few 
Englishmen, seizing their opportunity, had turned the 
tables on the French, recovered their countrymen from 
the shore, and sailed away in Tristian’s own ship ! 
They made several captures — one of them a French 
ship — ^and, transferring themselves to the best of their 
prizes, they came to Virginia. 

It was now proposed, v/ith this new ship, to attempt 
an ambitious voyage in the South Seas. The projected 
expedition was, no doubt, well advertised in Virginia. 
Dampier and many other old buccaneers who were living 
thereabouts, including Wafer and Ringrose, willingly 
consented to join, so that he says the crew soon amounted 
to seventy men. Most of these had been with Sharp 
in 1680, and they must have been about as “ tough ” a 
lot as the heart of any buccaneer captain could desire. 
Dampier was no longer a foremast hand : as will appear 
later, he occupied some position of authority, probably 
that of assistant-quartermaster, though he tells us no de- 
tails himself. As pilot, they took a certain Mr. Cowley, 
whose name should be noted, because he kept a journal 
of the voyage which is our next authority after Dampier’s. 
Although an M.A. of Cambridge University, he is 
neither a very lively nor a very reliable historian. He 
says that the crew numbered only fifty-two, and that 

1 See page 84. Not to be confused with Edmund Cook, who was 
put in irons by Watling. 



the ship had but eight guns ; whereas Dampier says 
seventy and eighteen. We do not hesitate to believe 
Dampier. But Cowley tells us lots of little personal 
details which Dampier leaves out. Feeling, no doubt, 
that the presence of an M.A. on a buccaneer’s ship 
required some explanation, he observes that Cook only 
induced him to join by “ pretending to me that I should 
navigate the ship to a port in the island of Hispaniola,” 
and no farther, and that he was afterwards forced to 
continue. It is impossible to believe a word of this. 

The name of Cook’s ship was the “ Revenge ” — 
though against whom or what revenge was required, 
unless Yanky and Tristian, is not very clear. They 
sailed from Virginia in August, 1683, and without 
staying for any adventures by the way, they arrived in 
September at the easternmost of the Cape Verde Islands, 
where they found the inhabitants to consist of only five 
men — four Portuguese officers and their servant. “ They 
were all black,” says Cowley, “ but scorn to be accounted 
any other than Portuguese, for if any man calls them 
negroes they will be very angry, saying that they are 
white Portuguese.” Their leader, the Governor, had, 
according to Dampier, “ nothing but a few Rags on his 
back, and an old Hat not worth three Farthings, which 
yet I believe he wore but seldom, for fear he might 
want before he got another, for he told us there had not 
been a ship in three years before.” One of the needy 
Portuguese gave a lump of ambergris to a buccaneer in 
exchange for clothes ; but Dampier thinks his shipmate 
was cheated. “ It was of a dark colour and very soft, 
but of no smell, and possibly ’twas some of their goats’ 

Here they watered, and here Dampier made his first 
acquaintance with that graceful bird, the flamingo. He 
found it very shy. “ Yet I have lain obscured in the 
Evening near a place where they resort, and with two 



more in my company have killed 14 of them at once ; 
the first shot being made while they were standing on 
the ground, the other two as they rose.” I am aware 
that this confession will damage Dampier’s reputation 
with modern readers, but, like him, I am determined to 
put historical accuracy first. The young flamingoes 
were at a serious disadvantage against this kind of 
sportsman, being unable to fly “ till they are almost 
full grown ” ; b^ut they run “ prodigiously fast.” In 
Dampier’s opinion, “ a dish of flamingoes’ tongues ” is 
“ fit for a Prince’s Table ” ; and I should imagine that 
few modern gourmets, however wealthy, are in a position 
to combat that opinion. 

They passed on to another island, where the Governor 
sent them a present of local wine (which Dampier found 
“ like Madeira,” but Cowley thought just “ bad ”) ; 
but he would not let them ashore, being afraid that they 
might repeat the experiment of the last English visitor, 
who had seized the principal men on the island, and 
held them to ransom. About this time, the buccaneers 
held a consultation to consider whether they should sail 
direct for the South Seas in their present ship alone, or 
go in search of a second one. They decided to try their 
luck at the island of St. lago ; and there, sure enough, 
was a fine Dutch ship in the roads, which they warily 
approached. But the Dutchman “ strook out her Ports 
alow, and presently running out her lower tier of Guns 
was ready to receive us ; who by this time being got 
something too near him, and seeing so many guns and 
men, we thought it more advisable to bear away before 
the Wind ; the Hollander at the same time sending 
I o shot after us.” The above is from Cowley ; Dampier 
says nothing of it. After all England and Holland were 
at peace ! But it was a rude rebuff. 

The buccaneers now took the bold decision to con- 
tinue their course eastward to Africa to the Guinea 


coast, still in search of a better ship. In pursuance of 
this design, they presently reached the mouth of the 
river Sherbro, south of Sierra Leone, where there was 
an English factory ; and here, in the mouth of the 
river, they found a new Danish ship of forty guns, which 
they immediately boarded in the most barefaced manner, 
and “ carried her away.” Also, says Cowley, “ we found 
she was very fit for so long a voyage, for she was well 
stored with good brandy, water, provisions and other 
necessaries.” Cowley calls her a “ lovely ship.” They 
named her the “ Bachelor’s Delight.” 

At Sherbro, they watered their own ship, too, filling 
each cask carefully, “ for we intended not to water again 
till we came into the South Sea, at the island of Juan 
Fernandez.” It was important that they should not 
have to water on the way, and the reason given for this 
by Dampier is interesting. The typical buccaneer crew, 
he points out, would always waste a lot of time over 
such operations ; and “ although these men were more 
under command than I had ever seen any Privateers, 
yet I could not expect to find them at a Minute’s call, 
in coming to an Anchor, or weighing Anchor.” Notice 
that it is Dampier himself who has to find them at “ a 
minute’s call,” suggesting, as I have said, that he held 
some such post as that of assistant-quartermaster. The 
quartermaster was one, Edward Davis, of whom we 
shall hear more. 

Cowley and the ship’s doctor made the preliminary 
arrangements for the watering. They went ashore with 
an interpreter, and interviewed the nearest native chief, 
who was so pleased with a present of a cask of brandy 
and some bars of iron and a little cloth, that he not 
only “ sent his people down to fill our water for us,” 
but presented Cowley and the doctor with a black woman 
each to keep them company for the night. Cowley, 
however, retired on board, “ by reason I did not like 



her hide.” The doctor stayed on shore, and very 
appropriately caught fever and died. Dampier says that 
this was a serious inconvenience, since Wafer was now 
the only surgeon they had. Although they had water, 
they seem to have run short of meat, for Dampier gives 
an unattractive recipe for boiled shark — “ boiling and 
squeezing them dry, and then stewing them with 
Vinegar, Pepper, etc.” 

So they sailed south-west, back across the Atlantic, 
for many days, and on the 14th February, St. Valentine’s 
Day, were rounding Cape Horn. Cowley says they 
“ were choosing Valentines, and discoursing on the 
Intrigues of Woman, when there arose a prodigious 
storm,” which drove them out of their course, “ so that 
we concluding the discoursing of Women at sea was 
very unlucky.” The only thing that vexed Dampier 
was that they saw so little of the sun that he could not 
take his usual observations. The value of some of 
Cowley’s observations may be judged from his assertion 
that the sea was “ red as blood,” owing to the number 
of “ shrimps ” swimming about in it. He also reports 
that they were surrounded by “ an innumerable company 
of seals,” who would lift their heads out of the water 
and “ blaff like a dog.” On the 19th they were over- 
hauled by a ship coming up from the south, which at 
first they took for a Spaniard ; but it turned out to be 
Captain Eaton (in the “ Nicholas ” of London), who 
came on board and told them of the fine times he had 
been having on the coast of Brazil with one Captain 
Swan, whom now he had unfortunately lost. As they 
were all bound for Juan Fernandez, Captain Eaton 
kept them company. They sighted the island on the 
22nd March, 1684, and Dampier tells us that the first 
thing they did was to send a boat ashore to look for an 
unfortunate Mosquito Indian, who had been left there 
by Watling in 1681. 


Now this Indian has almost as good a claim as 
Alexander Selkirk himself to be regarded as the 
“ original ” of Robinson Crusoe. The truth probably 
is that they should share the honours. When Wading 
drew off the buccaneer fleet from Juan Fernandez,^ on 
an alarm of the approach of Spanish warships, the Indian 
was hunting goats in the woods. He had with him 
only a gun, powder and shot, and a knife. When his 
ammunition was spent, he contrived to saw the barrel 
of his gun into small ' pieces, which he used for harpoons, 
lances and fish-hooks. Thus he managed to feed him- 
self. He lived in a little hut lined with goatskins, and 
wore skins for his clothing. As the boat from Cook’s 
ship approached, they saw the castaway waiting for them 
on the beach. Another Mosquito Indian, named — 
rather significantly, I think — Robin, was the first to leap 
ashore and greet his long-lost compatriot, who had pre- 
pared a feast of goat’s meat for his rescuers. 

Dampier was much interested, and took copious notes, 
from which it would appear that this was not a bad sort 
of desert island to be marooned on. It was (and is) 
very mountainous — so much so that when the Spaniards, 
annoyed that the goats they had left on the island should 
be supplying food for visiting Englishmen, landed fierce 
dogs to destroy the herds, the goats merely climbed to 
the mountain tops, and “ the dogs it was that died.” 
The valleys are well wooded, being full of cabbage palms,® 
and the great herds of goats wandered free, while 
“ seals swarm as thick about it as if they had no other 
place in the world to live in.” Fish were equally 

Cook and Eaton remained at Juan Fernandez for 
sixteen days, during which time many of the men fell 

^ See pages 8 1-2. 

2 Dampier says the fruit of the cabbage tree is “ as white as milk and 
as sweet as a nut,” 



ill (probably from the sudden change of diet). Among 
them was that rather uninteresting person, Cook him- 
self. He never recovered. They sailed north to the 
coast of Peru, and there took several prizes. Captain 
Eaton proved a useful partner, for his ship turned out 
to be a better sailer than Cook’s. At Galapagos Islands 
they made a little tent on shore for their sick captain ; 
but the rest does not seem to have done him much good, 
for when they reached Cape Blanco on the mainland of 
Mexico he made an end and died. They sent a boat 
ashore with twelve armed men to dig a grave and bury 
him ; but the ceremony was interrupted by the appear- 
ance of three Spanish Indians, whose inquisitive attitude 
so alarmed the men that they broke off to pursue and 
capture two of them, whom they afterwards brought on 
board. Eaton (in whose ship Dampier was now serving) 
ascertained from these prisoners that the whole country- 
side was alert, having been warned of his arrival, but 
that there was a herd of cattle near at hand, which he 
might safely steal. Dampier and twenty-three others 
were sent ashore for the purpose in two boats. They 
found the cattle scattered, and one boat immediately 
returned ; but the other was burnt by the Spaniards 
and its crew rescued with difficulty next morning. 

Edward Davis, a man of some character, and of few 
words, was now made captain in place of Cook, and the 
buccaneers sailed along the Mexican coast looking for 
a chance to surprise a town, but always finding the 
Spaniards too well prepared for them. At last Davis 
ventured into the Gulf of Amapala with two canoes, 
and succeeded in capturing a Spanish-speaking Indian, 
who occupied some kind of official post, for Dampier 
always refers to him as “ the Secretary.” This man had 
“no great kindness for the Spaniards.” He willingly 
agreed to guide the buccaneers to the nearest Indian 
village, where the inhabitants received them rather doubt- 


fully, but agreed to go with them to the church, where 
they commonly held their public meetings, and discuss 
matters there. It was Davis’s pleasant intention to get 
all the people into the church, and then lock the door, 
and demand tribute from them ; and the astonishing 
thing is that, according to Dampier, the “ secretary ” 
was in the plot with him. But just as they approached 
the church doors, one of Davis’s men gave an Indian a 
push, to hurry him along ; whereupon all the natives 
immediately took alarm and fled like wild animals. 
Davis’s men fired a futile volley, which killed the 
wretched secretary, but did no other good. “ Thus,” 
says Dampier, bitterly, “ our hopes perished by the 
indiscretion of one foolish fellow.” 

After this, they captured several Indian villages, but 
waxed no fatter thereon. They met Captain Eaton, 
but Davis’s men would not allow him a fair share 
of the spoil, and he parted company in disgust. 
Dampier, who was now with Davis, remarks with his 
usual fairness that it was all the fault of his own party. 
But another ally turned up in the person of Captain 
Swan, in the “ Cygnet ” of London, Eaton’s former 
consort. This unfortunate (and corpulent) commander 
had been forced into buccaneering by his crew. There 
is in existence a letter ^ from him, in which he implores 
his owners in moving terms to intercede for him with 
the King, “ for as soon as I can, I shall deliver myself 
to the King’s justice.” In the meantime, however, he 
was as forward in the wicked game as any of them. If 
at times he repented of his sins, there were other times 
when he was simply a fat humbug. With him was a 
certain Captain Peter Harris (nephew of the Harris who 
was killed before Panama) in command of a small 

The buccaneers, now a considerable force, sailed south 
^ Quoted by Mr. Masefield. 


wards, doubling Cape Blanco, and proceeded, to attack 
the town of Payta. They captured the place without 
the loss of a single man ; but the inhabitants fled with 
their goods, and after hanging about for some time in 
the vain hope of a ransom. Swan set fire to the town in 
a rage, and departed. Their next, and their most 
important, objective on this cruise was the town of 
Guayaquil, in the modern republic of Ecuador. They 
left their ships off Cape Blanco, and made this long 
journey south in their canoes. But luck was against 
them once more. On entering the Gulf of Guayaquil, 
they made first for Santa Clara, where the lighthouse 
now stands ; then, by a clever surprise attack, they 
captured the town of Puna and all its inhabitants, so 
that no one got away to warn the Spaniards in Guayaquil. 
The island of Puna lies near the mouth of the Gulf, 
and the buccaneers, after capturing it, waited here quietly 
till the flood tide, when they launched their canoes and 
began to row as hard as they could up the Gulf towards 
the unsuspecting town. But they had made some mis- 
calculation ; perhaps the canoes were too heavily manned 
for speed ; at any rate when dawn broke they found 
themselves still two leagues from Guayaquil, and only 
one hour of the flood tide left. So they put into a lonely 
creek, and hid there, waiting for the evening and the 
next flood tide. 

Davis presently became impatient, and attempted an 
overland march with a party of volunteers ; but they 
returned in an hour or two, soaked to the skin, having 
tumbled into innumerable creeks which barred the way 
to the town. At dusk the canoes crept out again, and 
were presently in full view of Guayaquil. It must have 
been a pretty sight, for “ we saw lighted torches or 
candles all the town over ” — ^which much disturbed the 
buccaneers. Some thought the Spaniards had been 
warned, some that the lights were there only because it 


was the eve of a saint’s day. At the urgent request of 
Davis, who upbraided Swan and his men with cowardice, 
they landed at a point two miles from the town, but 
soon found themselves hopelessly lost in the under- 
growth. They had an Indian guide, but he escaped. 
It afterwards appeared that the rope which held him had 
been deliberately cut by one of the buccaneers, who did 
not want to go any farther. So they turned back sadly, 
and rowed away in their canoes, leaving Guayaquil 
behind them. “ They did not fire one gun at us, nor 
we at them.” 

At Puna next morning they found that one of their 
ships, which had followed them, had captured three 
Spanish vessels loaded with negro slaves to the number 
of a thousand. Swan and Davis picked twenty or thirty 
of the best, and turned the rest ashore. Dampier, 
leaning over the side of his canoe and watching this 
transaction, indulged in what he calls “ golden dreams.” 
With a thousand such negroes, he reflected, the buc- 
caneers might have reopened the gold mines of Santa 
Maria, on the isthmus of Darien, now deserted by the 
Spaniards, and with the friendly Indians to help them 
and a line of retreat behind them to the northern seas, 
they might have defied all the strength that Spain could 
bring against them. But these were might-have-beens. 

In the meantime the voyage went on with varying 
fortunes. They “jogged on,” as Dampier puts it, from 
island to island, taking prizes. Sometimes there would 
be valuable cargoes, sometimes only “ a few boxes of 
marmalade, and three or four jars of brandy.” Dampier 
acquired a liking for clams, which he found “ very large 
and sweet,” and he and Mr. Teat, Swan’s chief mate, 
compared notes on the subject. They had a look at 
Panama, but found it better fortified than when Sharp 
and Sawkins were there. At Tobago the Spaniards 
made an unsuccessful attempt against them with a fire- 

io 8 


ship, a design which they concluded must have emanated 
from the fertile brain of an English renegade named 
Bond,^ then in Panama, “ for it is strange to say how 
grossly ignorant the Spaniards in the West Indies, but 
especially in the South Seas, are of sea affairs.” 

Next day they descried, to their astonishment, a fleet 
of canoes approaching them. They were at first in some 
“ consternation,” but presently discovered the canoes to 
be full of French and English privateers. There were 
cordial greetings. Davis and Swan gave Gronet, the 
French captain, one of their prizes to command ; but 
he turned out a weak and vacillating ally, somewhat 
after the manner of the Count d’Estr^es. With these 
new companions they sailed to the Gulf of San Miguel, 
where they found Captain Townley, an English com- 
mander. With him they consorted, and began to make 
plans for the capture of the rich Lima fleet, then about 
due to leave Lima on its way to Panama. The buc- 
caneers must have been feeling fit for any exploit, for 
Captain Townley had distributed all his wine and brandy 
among the fleet, in order to fill the barrels with water, 
preparatory to the cruise. Moreover they were now a 
powerful fleet of ten sail (Harris had been given com- 
mand of a prize), mounting well over fifty guns, and 
carrying nine hundred and sixty men, mostly English. 

They set sail on the 4th May, 1685, and on the 28th 
came in touch with the Lima fleet of fourteen sail and 
much heavier metal than theirs. A running fight began, 
and lasted all that day and most of the next. At the 
beginning the English were the pursuers, but in the 
end they were “ glad to get away.” Gronet never fired 
a shot,2 explaining that his men would not let him. It 

^ The same who had kidnapped the leading inhabitants from one of 
the Cape Verde Islands (see page 100). He hailed from Bristol, and 
was a common pirate who did not deserve the name of buccaneer. 

^ There exists a French account of this engagement, in which Gronet 


was a most unsatisfactory termination to “all we had 
been projecting for five or six months.” However, they 
collected their scattered fleet, and approaching the main- 
land again, got some satisfaction in taking and sacking 
the town of Puebla Nueva, where Sawkins had been 
killed five years before. 

The cruise of this united fleet was brought to a 
happier end than at one time seemed likely, by a 
successful attack upon the important town of Leon, in 
Nicaragua. The buccaneers landed with 520 men, 470 
of whom marched towards the town, while Dampier, 
with the remainder, was left behind to guard the canoes — 
not a very exciting command, perhaps, but one of 
some responsibility. The town lies fifty miles inlands 
Townley led the way with eighty of the “ briskest ” men, 
and was followed by Swan and Davis, while Captain 
Knight, a new addition to their ranks, brought up the 
rear. As they entered the town, about three o’clock in 
the afternoon, very footsore and weary, Townley’s 
advance guard was charged by twice its number of 
Spanish horse ; but “ two or three of their leaders being 
knocked down, the rest fled.” The Spanish foot, to the 
number of five hundred, were drawn up in the principal 
square, but did not even wait to meet the buccaneers, 
whose only casualties were among the stragglers in the rear. 
One of these, an old man of eighty-four^ who had fought 
under Oliver Cromwell, found the twenty-mile march 
under the blazing sun too much for him. He fell out, 

is described as doing his best to join in. The author, De Lussan {Journal 
of Le SieurRavenau de Lussan, Paris, 1689 ; English translation, 1699), 
brings a number of general charges against the English buccaneers, 
accusing them of sacrilege and firing their pistols at images in the churches. 
He himself was so pious a sea-robber that, as Mr. Gosse sa7S, he “ never 
allowed a Spanish town to be plundered until his crew had attended 
Mass in the cathedral.” {M;j Pirate Library, by Philip Gosse : London, 

■ 1 I think he must hold the age record among the buccaneers. 



and was quickly surrounded by the enemy, in the midst 
of whom he died, fighting gamely to the last, we are 
told, and refusing quarter. There followed the usual 
interminable negotiations about a ransom for the town, 
which ended— again as usual — ^in the buccaneers setting 
fire to the place. They marched thence to Realejo, 
which they sacked and burnt, without encountering any 
serious opposition. Then they put to sea again, no 
doubt thoroughly satisfied with themselves. 

It was at this point that Swan and Davis (who had 
never got on very well since the affair at Guayaquil) 
finally decided to separate, and a new series of adven- 
tures began for William Dampier. 



HEN Davis and Swan parted 
company on the twenty-fifth day 
of August, 1685, William Dampier 
came to the prompt decision to 
desert Davis, with whom he had 
• served so long ; and he therefore 
left him on that day, and went on 
board Swan’s ship, the “ Cygnet.” 

It is to be noted that Dampier had a particular liking 
for Davis.^ He always refers to him with I'espect ; and, 
so far as I know, this is the only one of all his buccaneer 
comrades with whom he maintained friendly relations 

^ Davis, as a matter of fact, was an exceptionally able man. Mr. Philip 
Gosse has pointed out (in The Pirates^ Who Who) that he “ commanded 
his gang of ruffians in the Pacific for nearly four years,’’ a record unequalled 
by any other buccaneer or pirate captain, with the exception of the re- 
doubtable Bartholomew Roberts. In the Calendar of State Papers there 
exists a letter from Governor Bellomont, of the Bermudas (the same who 
hounded poor Captain Kidd to his death), stating that he had in custody 
a “ pirate who goes by the name of Capt. Davies, that came passenger 
with Kidd from Madagascar.” Bellomont adds, “ I suppose him to be 
that Capt. Davies that Dampiere {sic) and Wafer speak of, in their 
printed relations or voyages, for an extraordinarily stout man ; but let 
him be as stout as he will, here he is a prisoner, and shall be forthcoming 
upon the order I receive from England concerning Kidd.” This letter 
is dated October 24th, 1699. We know from Dampier’s references that 
Edward Davis was living quietly in England only two or three years 
before this date ; and we also know that he was going strong again in 
1702. So I conclude that the Governor was mistaken. 




in England after they had both taken to a more respect- 
able way of life. But Davis was determined to return 
to the coast of Peru, whereas Swan had much more 
ambitious ideas in his head. Dampier explains that his 
decision to leave Davis “ was not from any dislike to 
my old Captain [who seems to have borne him no grudge 
for it] but to get some knowledge of the northern parts 
of this Continent of Mexico. And I knew that Capt. 
Swan determined to coast it as far North as he thought 
convenient, and then pass over for the East Indies ; 
which was a way very agreeable to my inclinations.” 

Let us try to see Dampier as he was at this time. He 
was in his thirty-fifth year, a hard, well-seasoned sailor, 
and a man of parts withal, among a crowd of thoughtless 
swashbuckling adventurers. Instead of wasting his time 
on wine and women, he had known how to use his eyes 
and his natural intelligence ; and it is probable that not 
one of them — certainly not the official pilot, William 
Ambrosia Cowley — ^was so well equipped to navigate a 
ship through those waters. 

Cowley, who frequently mentions how he “ ordered 
the quartermaster ” to do this and that, probably never 
realized that the self-contained, quiet young man who 
was the quartermaster’s assistant was already a better 
hydrographer and “ artist ” (the usual word in those 
days for navigator) than he was himself. Yet his single 
allusion to “ Mr. Dampier ” in his journal is noticeably 
respectful. A comparison between the characters of 
these two men is instructive. Cowley’s claim that he 
was, as he puts it, “ a jackdaw among the rooks ” from 
the point of view of honesty, is as unjustifiable as his 
boast that they could not have navigated the “ Revenge ” 
without him. When Cook’s ship was between Sierra 
Leone and Sherbro he was put under arrest — ^he says 
because the buccaneers were afraid that he intended to 
leave them when they got ashore. He adds that they 



wotild undoubtedly have hanged him “ had they had 
another man to carry their ship to the south sea.” This 
is palpably absurd. Dampier, or even Davis himself, 
could have done it. Dampier could “ shoot ” the sun 
as well as Q>wley could, and was already doing it 
regularly and accurately, as we see from his journal. 
Moreover, he had far more intelligence in making the 
appropriate deductions from his observations, and (as we 
shall discover) far more honesty when it came to putting 
them before the public. 

Cowley was quite irresponsible. When the “ Bache- 
lor’s Delight ” reaches the South Seas, in its voyage from 
Africa, he begins naming islands right and left. Most 
of these islands were in the Galapagos group, and, of 
course, were already named. But Cowley calls them 
after Kng Charles II, the Duke of York, the Duke of 
Albemarle, Lord Culpeper, Sir John Marborough, and 
others. “ And between York and Albemarle’s island 
lieth a small one, which my Fancy led me to call Cowley’s 
Inchanted Island.” A conceited ass ! As for “ Pepys 
Island,” named after Samuel, the diarist, which he “ dis- 
covered ” a little earlier as they passed the Falklands, it 
simply did not exist. 

Smyth has gone very fully into this matter, and I am 
indebted to him for the following explanation of Cowley’s 
blunder. In his manuscript journal, now in the British 
Museum, Cowley merely states that they espied an island 
in latitude 47° 40'. But on his return to England, 
desiring to publish his manuscript, he selected as editor 
a gentleman we have met before — ^William Hacke. 
Hacke, deceived by the latitude, thought— or pretended 
to think — that this must be a new discovery, and there- 
fore a good opportunity of paying a compliment to 
Pepys, who was Secretary of the Admiralty. Deliber- 
ately cutting out the forty minutes of latitude in order 
to carry his “ discovery ” farther away from any known 




land, he — or he and Cowley — dished up the entry from 
Cowley’s journal for the public thus : “ We held our 
course S.W. till we came into the lat. of 47 deg. when 
we saw land ; the same being an island not before 
known, lying to the westward of us. It was not in- 
habited [how on earth could he know that ?] and I gave 
it the name of Pepys Island.” ^ So much for Cowley .2 
While he blundered along in this fashion, scattering new 
names like largess over the map, his assistant quarter- 
master was quietly noting everything — giving the ship’s 
position with unfailing accuracy almost every day, observ- 
ing the winds and the tides, identifying every island and 
investigating it himself if possible, or questioning the 
inhabitants. Already he must have been incomparably 
the most knowledgeable hydrographer in the South Seas. 

^ This imaginary Pepys Island persisted in the maps for years. The 
great Captain Cook was one of the first to declare publicly that it did 
not exist. 

2 To finish with William Ambrosia : — He sailed with neither Swan 
nor Davis. Already, before their separation, he had transferred himself 
to Eaton’s ship as navigator. We do not hear that his former messmates 
on the “ Bachelor’s Delight ” found any diflSculty in navigating that ship 
without him. Eaton had sailed for the East in August, and we have 
Cowley’s record of that voyage. Whether or not Cowley was a buccaneer 
malgri lui^ he soon became a pirate at heart, like his new commander. 
For instance, at the island of Guana, at their starting east, they had 
some dispute with the Indians, and shot a large number of them without 
any of their own men being hurt. Also, says Cowley, “ we took four 
of these infidels prisoners and brought them on board, binding their 
Hands behind them ; but they had not been long there when three of 
them leaped overboard into the Sea, swimming away from the Ship with 
their Hands tied behind them : However, we sent the Boat after them, 
and found a strong Man at the first Blow could not penetrate their skins 
with a Cutlace ; one of them had received in my judgment 40 shots in 
his body before he died ; and the last of the three that was killed had 
swam a good English mile first, not only with his Hands behind him, 
but also with his Arms pinioned.” A very interesting observation, which 
tells us even more about the mind of William Ambrosia than about the 
thickness of the poor Indians’ skulls. 


Dampier was now appointed pilot, or navigating 
officer, on the “ Cygnet,” Swan’s ship. He does not 
say so himself, but it is plain firom what followed. He 
was very much in Swan’s confidence, in fact his right- 
hand man. The intention to sail to the Eastern Seas 
was at first a carefully guarded secret between the two 
of them. Moreover, Dampier was looked up to by the 
whole ship’s company as a recognized expert in all 
matters connected with the sea. He even admits it 
himself. The passage in question — ^which I take from 
his manuscript, where it is much fuller than in his book — 
runs as follows : 

“ It was first mentioned here [at the Maria Islands, 
off the coast of Mexico, according to the book ; at Cape 
Corrientes, according to the manuscript] of going to 
East India, but many opposed it. Captain Swan and 
Josiah Teat [he of the clams] who came out of England 
Swan’s chief mate, were very earnest for it, and though 
I was such, for I left Davis for the same purpose, yet 
had still a mind to make farther discoveries, and my 
advice and counsell was ever accepted by the Company, 
as much as any one man’s ; and indeed it was ever a 
designe between Captain Swan and myself to promote it 
and use our utmost endeavour to persuade the unthinking 
Rabble to it ; and although we had discoursed of such 
a voyage a long time before, yet never till now proposed 
it. The chiefest objection that the adverse party had 
against it was want of provision. . . 

This is the sole and only reference that this least 
boastful of men ever makes to the esteem in which he 
was held by his fellow-buccaneers. And even now he 
changes his mind before the book is published, and cuts 
the passage out ! In the book, indeed, he leaves us to 
conclude that he personally had nothing to do with the 



decision. “ Captain Swan,” he says, without any refer- 
ence to himself, “here proposed to go into the East 
Indies : Many were well pleased with the voyage, but 
some thought, such was their Ignorance, that he would 
carry them out of the World ; for about two thirds of 
our Men did not think there was any such way to be 
found ; but at last he gained their Consents.” 

The whole incident is illuminating in the light it 
throws on Dampier’s character. There is no sign yet 
of that famous temper of his, no vacillation or indecision 
such as his enemies later accused him of. But there is 
a high spirit of adventure, and a full measure of that 
eager, unselfish curiosity which has been the mark of 
every great explorer since the world began. Few English 
discoverers — I think none at all — ^have been more con- 
scious than Dampier that their work was greater than 

But before they sailed for the East there was to be 
one further misfortune — as though to prove to them 
that there were no more easy plums to be picked in the 
West. Swan was still cruising off the coast of Mexico — 
at first in company with Townley, later by himself — not 
gaining much booty, nor increasing his popularity with 
the inhabitants,^ when he decided to seize the town of 
Santa Pecaque on the mainland, about a hundred miles 
north of Cape Corrientes, with the object of replenishing 
his stock of provisions — ^for he had always that Eastern 
voyage in mind. But this flabby commander — flabby 
in both senses of the word — ^was already showing that 
weakness as a disciplinarian which was to be his ruin 
later on. Once comfortably established in Santa 
Pecaque, his men got out of hand, and refused to 

^ Dampier records that on one occasion a friendly Spaniard on horse- 
back was in the act of drinking a health to the buccaneers when “ one of 
our men snatched up his gun, and let drive at him, and killed his horse.” 
In fact they behaved like bullies. 



move from the neighbourhood of the wine-cellars until 
all the provisions had been carried down to the canoes. 
Swan was therefore compelled, against his better judg- 
ment, to send off a party with a long string of horses 
carrying the goods. Presently those in the town heard 
the sound of heavy firing ; but they still refused to budge, 
until riderless horses with blood-stained saddles came 
galloping in, bearing plain proof of disaster. Then 
they marched out, and found the baggage train scattered 
and all their comrades dead, “ and so cut and mangled 
that we scarce knew one man.” They lay, says Dampier, 
“ all along the path as they were killed, one and one, 
not two abreast anywhere, by which it was easy to guess 
that their own folly ruined them, for they had as many 
horses as men, and therefore every man led his horse, 
which made a great distance between the foremost and 
the hindermost, and the Spaniards had the advantage to 
destroy them singly.” 

They lost fifty men here, and among the dead was 
that unfortunate gentleman, Mr. Basil Ringrose — “ my 
ingenious friend,” says Dampier, recording the incident 
with a rare touch of feeling. Ringrose had transferred 
to the “ Cygnet ” with Dampier, and was employed by 
Swan as “ Cape-Merchant or Supercargo.” Dampier 
must have felt the loss of Ringrose keenly ; for Wafer 
had gone with Davis, and with the doubtful exception 
of Captain Swan, there was no other kindred spirit on 

Quite discouraged by this reverse, the buccaneers 
re-embarked, and drifted down the coast to the Maria 
Islands, where Dampier, who had been suffering for 
some time with dropsy, effected a cure by burying 
himself up to the neck in the hot sand, and remaining 
there for half an hour — ^afiter which he “ did sweat 
exceedingly.” It was here that Swan and Dampier 
opened up their project of a voyage to the East, as 



recorded above, and they must have found the men in 
a receptive mood. The astonishing fact emerges that 
no one knew the exact distance to the Ladrones, their 
first port of call. In the Spanish maps, the distance 
from Cape Corrientes was given as between 2300 and 
2400 leagues, whereas the English made less than two 
thousand. As they had only sixty days’ provisions on 
board, caclulating at the rate of half a pint of maize 
daily for each man — and they had practically nothing 
else but maize — it will be allowed that the “ Rabble,” 
as Dampier calls them,^ showed a very commendable 
spirit in falling in with Swan’s proposal. What seems 
to have clinched the argument was the captain’s promise 
to cruise among the Philippines in an attempt to intercept 
the valuable “ Manila ship ” (which they had already 
been looking for in vain) when it arrived there from 

So they set sail across the Pacific on the 31st March, 
1686. They were two ships in company, Captain 
Swan’s ship the “ Cygnet,” and a small barque com- 
manded by Teat. “We were 150 Men, 100 aboard 
of the Ship and 50 aboard the Bark, besides Slaves ” — 
of which there cannot have been many. They had 
“ a fresh Trade-wind ” and very fair weather, so that 
Dampier “ made many good observations of the Sun.” 
But the men were troublesome, and early insisted on an 
increase in their rations. Dampier, for his part, thought 
the short allowance suited him, “ for I found that my 
strength increased and my dropsy wore off.” One man 
was caught stealing food, and was condemned to receive 
three blows from a rope’s end from every person on the 
ship. “ Captain Swan began first, and struck with a 
good Will ; whose example was followed by all of us.” 
They saw no fish of any sort, but “ a great number of 
boobies.” When they had covered a distance which, 
^ Seepage 115. 



according to the English reckoning, should have brought 
Guam Island under their bows, the men began to 
murmur against the captain for bringing them on the 
voyage. But he soothed them with fair promises ; and, 
sure enough, a few days later. Teat, who was ahead, 
sighted land. At four o’clock on the 20th May they 
cast anchor “ to our great joy ” at the island of Guam. 

They had then just three days’ rations left. Dampier 
afterwards discovered that the men, in their desperation, 
had formed a plot, which was “ first to kill Captain 
Swan and eat him when the Victuals was gone, and after 
him all of us who were accessory in promoting the 
undertaking this Voyage.” On hearing of this. Swan 
remarked, “ Ah, Dampier, you would have made them 
but a poor Meal ! ” — for the pilot, as he explains, “ was 
as lean as the Captain was lusty and fleshy.” At the 
end of his account in his journal of this fifty-two days’ 
voyage, Dampier appends a table, showing the vessels’ 
daily course, the position at the beginning and end of each 
day, with a note on the winds. He adds that he would 
have given a further set of figures to show the variation 
of the needle, but that it “ was very small in this course.” 

The hungry sailors found at Guam rice, cocoanuts 
and bread-fruit in abundance, and no doubt did them- 
selves well. Dampier’s description of the bread-fruit, 
so familiar to the modern traveller, was probably the 
first to reach England. Another novelty in those days 
was the drink called arack, of which the buccaneers 
partook freely. Dampier liked it well enough, but he 
remarks that “ it must have a dash of brandy to hearten 
it,” being not strong enough “ to make good punch of 
itself.” It was not until dusk that the “ Cygnet ” came 
in close to the shore, and the Spaniards in the fort 
evidently mistook her for a vessel of their own nationality. 
One of their priests, coming on board under that impres- 
sion, was promptly seized, and through him negotia- 



tions were opened with the Governor, who consented to 
supply them with pork, in addition to the vegetarian 
fare mentioned above. 

The “ Indians ” of Guam, who were very hostile to 
the Spaniards, tried to persuade the buccaneers to attack 
the fort, but Swan would have nothing to do with it. 
On the contrary, he cultivated friendly relations with 
the Governor, and, at the latter’s request, made him a 
present of an “ English dog,” which they had on board. 
The animal was evidently a sort of ship’s pet, for 
Dampier tells us that the gift went “ much against the 
grain of many of the Men, who had a great value for 
that Dog.” At the same time, this friendly Governor 
sent out swift canoes to warn all Spanish ships of the 
presence of the buccaneers — we can hardly blame him 
for that. The truth is that the Spaniards of these 
islands, as in other parts of the world, would willingly 
have traded with the English if their dog-in-the-manger 
Government would have permitted it ; and the local 
governors, here as elsewhere, would often wink at 
such commerce, providing their own perquisites were 

From Guam Captain Swan sailed to Mindanao, the 
southernmost of the Philippine Islands, there to do a 
little trading on his own account and — as his men 
hoped — to keep an eye cocked for the Manila ship. 
Their reception at Mindanao town, where they arrived 
on the 1 8 th July, was almost overwhelmingly friendly : 
so much so that they quite settled down in the place, 
and lived there for a period of six months. A good 
many of them died there, too, as shall be told presently. 
Mindanao was at this time independent of Spain ; but 
Manila was only just across the way, and the Sultan of 
Mindanao no doubt felt that his position would be con- 
siderably strengthened against that dangerous neighbour 
if a large party of Englishmen were settled in his country. 



He did his best to encourage them to stay. Dampier, 
for his part, regrets that they did not forthwith abandon 
their “ roving life ” and establish a permanent trading 
“ factory ” in this hospitable land. He thought there 
was money to be made ; and he points out that they 
had among them carpenters, bricklayers, shoemakers, 
tailors, etc., so that they would have been very well able 
to look after themselves. 

In the meantime, he was very greatly interested in 
the Mindanayans. He was constantly ashore with his 
note-book, observing the manners and customs of the 
people, and the plant and animal life of the island. He 
interposes a little essay on the plantain, which he “ takes 
to be the king of all Fruit, not except the Coco itself.” 
The clove, the nutmeg, and the betel-nut came under 
his eye, as also the durian, which he says “ sends forth 
an excellent scent ” — a point on which not everyone will 
agree with him. On the whole he liked the people. 
The women were free with strangers, but without losing 
their self-respect. They “ walk stately ” and they wash 
themselves twice a day, night and morning, a habit 
which astonishes our seventeenth-century Englishman. 
He adopted the practice himself after a bit, and believed 
that it cured him of an attack of dysentery. On the 
other hand, the houses were insanitary, and the living- 
rooms gave forth “ a prodigious stink.” Another nasty 
habit of the Mindanayans was that of poisoning those 
who offended them, “ even upon small occasions.” 
Dampier adds : “ Nor did our Men want for giving 
offence, through their general Rogueries, and sometimes 
by dallying too familiarly with their Women, even before 
their Faces.” Some of the buccaneers died from the 
effect of these slow poisons long after they had left the 

The Englishmen found a staunch friend at the Sultan’s 
court in the person of Raja Laut, the commander-in- 



chief of the army. This powerful minister entertained 
Swan at his palace, advised him on the conduct of his 
men in their intercourse with the people, and invited 
parties of them to join in processions through the streets 
on occasions of public rejoicing. In fact he sought to 
show them honour in every possible way. There were 
difficulties even with him. On one occasion the ship’s 
cobbler presented him with a pair of English shoes, 
which turned out to contain hogs’ bristles, to the horror 
of this pious Moslem. Another time some of the 
English were giving an exhibition of dancing in their 
national manner, when Raja Laut’s attention was attracted 
by the agility of a certain John Thacker, who “ was a 
seaman bred,” says Dampier, and had “ learnt to dance 
in the musick-houses about Wapping.” 

Now Thacker had been with Captain Harris in the 
South Seas, and had laid out some of his ill-gotten gains 
in the purchase of an unusually fine suit of clothes. 
The Raja — or the “ General,” as Dampier always calls 
him — ^therefore turned to one of the other sailors, and 
innocently enquired whether Thacker were not a person 
of noble extraction. The man thus addressed saw an 
opening for a good joke at their host’s expense, and 
proceeded to pitch him such a yarn that Raja Laut 
began to treat the astonished Thacker with the deference 
due to a great nobleman. Unfortunately Captain Swan 
got to hear of it, and in a great rage gave the “ noble- 
man ” a sound drubbing — nor could he ever endure 
him afterwards, though, as Dampier remarks, “ the poor 
fellow knew nothing of the matter.” 

Swan, as a matter of fact, was getting spoilt. He 
had become a swaggering bully. When he sat down to 
table, his “ two Trumpeters sounded all the time that 
he was at dinner” — almost as though he were in a 
modern London restaurant ! His weight must have 
gone up prodigiously. He took to punishing his men 



in public, with the natives looking on. Even Teat, 
his second-in-command, was publicly flogged. Teat 
never forgave him. Finally, he began to quarrel with 
Raja Laut — and all this without showing the slightest 
intention of departing from the island, or of taking any 
steps at all about the Manila ship. His men were 
growing restive : two or three of them deserted, and 
fled into the interior ; the others held meetings of 
protest on the ship in Swan’s absence. When they were 
not doing that they drank too much. This disgusted 
Dampier, who, as we have noted, “ did ever abhor 
drunkenness.” At the same time he admits that the 
Mindanayans were so hospitable that an Englishman 
“ could hardly pass the Streets, but we were even hal’d 
by Force into their Houses, to be treated by them.” 
Christmas Day came round with a great banquet on 
board, when Swan was confidently expected to speak 
his mind and indicate some scheme of future operations. 
But he ate his dinner and went wheezily ashore again, 
without saying a word of his intentions. 

No one knew better than Dampier that the fat man 
had not the slightest intention of going after the Manila 
ship. Apart from being very comfortable where he was, 
he was sick of buccaneering and of buccaneers, and was 
only longing to be rid of it all, and go home to England, 
and there throw himself upon the mercy of the Govern- 
ment. Yet, as he said rather pathetically to Dampier 
on one occasion, “ there is no Prince on Earth is able 
to wipe oflF the stain of such Actions.” Undoubtedly 
the poor fellow had a conscience. We have no record 
of Dampier’s reply. In the meantime, however, if Swan 
was sick of the buccaneers, they were becoming equally 
sick of him. While he was disporting himself on shore, 
some of them had been reading his journal, which was 
left on the ship, and there found themselves most bitterly 
blamed, in such a manner as could hardly fail to make 



things exceedingly uncomfortable for them should the 
journal ever get to England. There was more grumbling 
at this, and the injured Teat, aided by one John 
Read, of Bristol, seized the opportunity to fan the flames 
into open mutiny. 

There is no doubt that they would have sailed away 
forthwith, leaving Swan and I)ampier and many others 
on shore, but for the accident that there happened to 
be no surgeon on board at the time. To remedy this, 
they sent a message to the town pretending that one of 
them was ill, and after some delay Herman Coppinger, 
the assistant surgeon, and a friend of Dampier’s, pre- 
pared to go on board. By pure chance, Dampier went 
with him. This was in the evening ; but when they 
reached the ship and discovered the trick that had been 
put upon them, they seem to have gone quietly to bed, 
without making the slightest attempt to warn their 
Captain, In the morning, however. Read and Teat put 
out into the harbour, and there stayed and fired a gun, 
as a signal to all who might wish to join them. At the 
request of one or other of Swan’s friends, they remained 
until 2 p.m., expecting to hear from him. But he 
made no sign, and that afternoon the “ Cygnet ” sailed 
away, leaving her commander and thirty-six other 
Englishmen stranded in Mindanao. 

It was a shabby trick — for even supposing that Swan 
was indifferent how he left the buccaneers so long as he 
left them, it would be a wild presumption to assume 
that all the other thirty-six mariners were within hearing 
at the time, or in a condition to make up their minds 
about their futures. Yet we must not suppose that 
they were all unwilling to remain. “ The main division,” 
says Dampier shrewdly, “was between those that had 
Money and those that had none. . . , For they that 
had money lived ashore and did not care for leaving 
Mindanao ; whilst those that were poor lived aboard. 


and urged Captain Swan to go to sea.” Dampier was 
among the poor ones. 

There is, however, good evidence that his passive 
acquiescence in the desertion of Swan weighed on 
Dampier’s conscience. Perhaps some instinct warned 
him that a time would come when he himself would 
have trouble with his men. He was now on a pirate ship 
rather than a buccaneer. Read took command, with Teat 
as master and Henry More as quartermaster. Dampier 
was distrusted at first ; but later he seems to have been 
made merchants’ representative, or supercargo. , 

I think it unnecessary to follow this singularly iinre- 
munerative voyage in detail. After cruising unsuccess- 
fully in the Gulf of Siam, they sailed north to the 
Pescadores Islands, between Formosa and the mainland 
of China, where the Governor sent them a present of 
the “ fattest and kindliest Beef that I did ever taste in 
any foreign country,” and the men “ licked their lips ” 
over a new kind of strong liquor distilled locally from 
wheat. From there to “ Bashi Island,” which the crew, 
characteristically, named after a kind of beer which the 
inhabitants made (and the islands bear the name to this 
day). Here they obtained meat, for the natives would 
exchange “ a good fat goat for an old iron hoop,” and 
here they remained from the 6th August to the 
3rd October, 1687, eating and drinking their fill, but 
getting no richer. Passing southward down the eastern 
side of the Philippines, with the idea of making for the 
Spice Islands, they reached Mindanayan territory once 
more ; and here Dampier’s conscience quite got the 
upper hand. While Read and Teat and others were on 
shore, he made an eloquent appeal to the remainder of 
the crew, and got them to agree to sail round the island 
to Mindanao town, and take Swan off. But one man 
slipped away, and warned the leaders, who came on 
board and “ presently dissuaded the men from any such 



design.” They seem to have borne no ill-will to 
Dampier for his action ; but he and Coppinger had long 
ago made up their minds to leave “ this mad crew ” at 
the first opportunity. 

Many months later Dampier heard of the fate of 
Swan. He served with distinction in Raja Laut’s army, 
and the latter appeared to be grateful, but would never 
listen to any of Swan’s requests to be allowed to return 
to England. The point is that Swan had with him 
£$ooo in gold, the property of the owners of the 
“ Cygnet,” and Raja Laut knew it. Some of Swan’s 
men died in Mindanao, and some got away on Dutch 
ships. Finally he and his head surgeon secured a small 
canoe, and had just put off secretly from the shore in an 
endeavour to reach a Dutch sloop which lay in the 
roads, when they were overtaken by a party of natives 
who upset their canoe, after seizing the money, and 
killed them both as they struggled in the water. Almost 
certainly Raja Laut was the villain of the piece. 

In pursuance of their resolution to go for the Spice 
Islands, Read and Teat sailed next to the Celebes, and 
here occurred one of the most puzzling incidents in the 
whole of Dampier’s career. On December 27th, in the 
most disappointingly casual way imaginable, they decided 
to have a look at Australia — '•'■terra Australia incognita ” — 
just “ to see what that country would afford us.” This 
is less than we should have expected of our explorer. 
At the moment, evidently, he saw nothing in the project 
more than another probably futile attempt on the part 
of Read and Teat to “ get rich quick.” He does, 
however, remark with some show of interest that “ it is 
notyet determined whether it (Australia, or New Holland, 
as it was called on contemporary maps) is an Island or 
a Main Continent ” ; adding that he personally is con- 
vinced that “ it joins neither to Asia, Africa nor America ” 
— a pretty safe guess in the case of the last two ! 



As supercargo, Dampier can have had very little to 
do with laying the course, but as usual he kept his eyes 
open, and his notes are very full. The voyage was 
uneventful. On the 14th January, 1688, they made 
their landfall in the latitude of 16° $ 0 '. Mr. Clark 
Russell^ thinks this may have meant Bathurst, or 
Melville Island, which would make Dampier’s note of 
the latitude grossly incorrect. Mr. Masefield favours 
King Sound, or, alternatively. Collier Bay. I see no 
reason to doubt the wisdom of the mapmakers, who 
have named the country round King Sound “ Dampier 
Land,” and the group of islands at its mouth — ^there was 
“ an abundance of islands,” says Dampier — ^the “ Buc- 
caneer Archipelago.” 

They were not unduly impressed by their first glimpse 
of Australia. The land was barren, and there was 
nothing of interest to be seen except some strange 
tracks upon the sand like those of “ a great mastilf 
dog,” possibly made by dingoes. They cast anchor, 
however, and established themselves on shore, and, 
eventually, got in touch with some of the aborigines. 
Here we get Dampier at his most amusing best. His 
description of the people is unflattering. Even the 
“ Hodmadods ” (Hottentots), though “ a nasty people,” 
are “ gentlemen to these.” The buccaneers completely 
failed to make these people understand them, gesticulate 
as they would. The black men merely “ grinned like 
so many monkeys.” 

But what impressed Dampier most was that even the 
offer of European clothes and little pieces of finery made 
no impression on their minds — a point on which they 
would seem to have been inferior even to monkeys 1 It 
was the same with the ship, though they could never 
have seen anything like it in their lives. Nearly all of 
them suffered from “ bad eyes,” which made it easy to 

^ Op. cit. 



approach and catch them ; and the buccaneers, seeking 
to establish good relations, caught two or three of them 
and took them on board, where they were treated to 
such dainties as the ship’s larder could boast. But they 
merely gobbled up any food within reach, without lifting 
their eyes from it, or displaying the faintest interest in 
their strange surroundings. Dampier took the trouble 
to find out all about their methods of catching fish, and 
describes them in detail ; but adds the surprising state- 
ment that they possessed “ no instruments ” for hunting 
bird or beast. Apparently he never saw a boomerang. 

At the beginning of March, they prepared to depart, 
and Dampier chose this moment to put in a plea to be 
allowed to leave the company, asking them to set him 
ashore at the nearest English factory. In reply. Read 
threatened to maroon him, and he therefore said no 
more, but waited quietly for an opportunity to desert. 
After all, no one was making a penny out of this absurdly 
pointless voyage. At Bashi Islands they had been offered 
gold rings for sale at derisive prices, but Dampier had 
no money to buy anything then. As supercargo, he 
could have used some of the iron which was stacked in 
the hold ; but this was really the property of the owners, 
and his conscience prevented him. 

After leaving Australia, their first port of call was an 
island near Sumatra, and here Read used a characteristic 
method of stopping desertions. He deliberately ill- 
treated the natives, in order that his crew might become 
unpopular and be afraid to go ashore. Another result 
must have been to prevent any trading operations ! 
From Sumatra they sailed to the Nicobar Islands, and 
here at last Dampier broke away, and put a final end to 
his career as a buccaneer. 

It was a blazing hot day, and the tar all blistering in 
the seams of the ship’s deck as she swung at anchor, 
and the Nicobar beach looked empty and inhospitable 


enough — ^for the people had all fled at the approach of 
the buccaneers — ^when Dampier approached the skipper 
with an innocent request to be allowed to land. A surly 
nod, and “ I soon got up my chest and bedding and 
immediately got some to row me ashore, for fear lest 
his mind should change again.” The canoe danced 
lightly across the waves, piled high with Dampier’s 
belongings, those melancholy, obstinate eyes of his 
turning often back towards the ship to mark whether 
the manner of his departure, with all his goods about 
him, had been noted. Arriving on the beach, his ship- 
mates helped him ashore, and he carried up his things 
to one of the deserted houses, intending to settle down 
there for the night. 

But it was not to be so easy. An hour later. Teat 
arrived with an armed party, and compelled him with 
threats to return to the ship. There he found every- 
thing in an uproar. Three more men — Coppinger, 
Robert Hall and one Ambrose, whose surname we never 
got — encouraged by Dampier’s example, had announced 
their intention of joining him on shore. The morale of 
the buccaneers had gone to pieces, and the crew openly 
sympathized with the deserters. Daunted by the clamour. 
Read at last agreed to everything except the loss of his 
surgeon, whom he swore he would keep. Coppinger 
thereupon sprang into Dampier’s canoe, and, snatching 
up a gun, threatened to shoot anyone who should detain 
him. But several of them jumped in after him, and 
dragged him back to the ship. Dampier, Hall and 
Ambrose were allowed to go ; “ and one of the men 
that rowed us ashore stole an Axe and gave it to us, 
knowing it was a good Commodity with the Indians.” 

It was already dark when they landed in the little 
bay ; so they lit candles, and Dampier, “ being the 
oldest Stander in our new Country,” conducted the 
others across the white beach into one of the empty 



houses. There they slung their hammocks. “ It was 
a fine clear Moonlight Night,” he says, with an uncon- 
sciously dramatic touch, “ in which we were left ashore ” ; 
and they “ walked on the sandy Bay to watch when the 
Ship would weigh and be gone, not thinking ourselves 
secure in our new-gotten Liberty till then.” At last 
they saw her white sails move out from the bay, and 
fade into the darkness. 

“ Then we returned to our Chamber, and so to sleep. 
This was the sixth of May.” 

Only twenty-four hours earlier, had they but known 
it. King James II had published his Declaration of 
Indulgence which was to lose him his throne ; and as 
Dampier and his friends stood alone on the beach at 
Nicobar, watching the departure of their ship, Dutch 
William was sitting down to prepare his plans for the 
invasion of England. 



T was a curiously assorted group of 
mixed nationality whom we left in the 
last chapter standing on the beach at 
Nicobar. Soon after Dampier, Hall, 
and Ambrose had reached the shore, 
another boat came after them, bringing 
— by the Captain’s orders — four 
Malays of Achin who had been cap- 
tured by the buccaneers in a native boat off Sumatra, 
and an unfortunate Portuguese whom they had taken out 
of a Siamese junk in the Gulf of Siam, and had been 
carrying about with them ever since, employing him as 
an interpreter. They were now in a part of the world 
where Portuguese was not spoken, and the interpreter 
and the Malayan prisoners were, from Read’s point of 
view, just so many extra mouths to feed. He was no 
doubt glad to shift the responsibility on to Dampier ’s 
shoulders. The three English deserters, for their part, 
found the Malays extremely useful in helping them to 
get food. Dampier evidently did not like the “ mongrel 
Portuguese,” as he calls him — indeed, he despised the 
whole nation, “ than whom are not a more despicable 
People now in all the Eastern Nations.” 

The first thing to do was to establish friendly relations 
with the natives. Dampier felt quite easy on this score. 
Speaking from an already wide experience, he expresses 
the opinion that “ there are no people in the World so 
barbarous as to kill a single Person that falls accidentally 


into their Hands, or comes to live among them ; except 
they have been injured by some Outrage or Violence 
committed against them.” He also expresses a dis- 
belief in the existence of cannibalism, which, as we now 
know unfortunately, did more credit to his heart than 
to his head. However, it had never come within his own 
experience, and in such a situation as he then was in, his 
ignorance was bliss. He was to require all his tact the 
next morning when the native landlord turned up, and 
was not a little astonished to find his house full of 
strangers. They pacified him with the present of an 
axe, in return for which he gave them his canoe. 

The possession of this canoe filled them with joy. 
Already they saw themselves safe and sound at the 
English factory at Achin in Sumatra, 1 50 miles away by 
sea across the Indian Ocean. In the enthusiasm of the 
moment, they even launched the crazy vessel straight 
away, and tumbled into it with all their things, intending 
to make for the southernmost point of the island, and 
wait there “ till the monsoon shifted.” A hundred 
yards from the shore the canoe capsized, leaving them 
to swim for their lives, dragging with them their chests 
and clothing. Everything was wet, and they remained 
on the beach for three days drying themselves and their 
belongings with the aid of a fire which they lit. 
Dampier specifically says that their papers had to be 
dried, and we get a picture of him anxiously holding the 
leaves of his precious journal close to the flames. 

When we consider that the gunwales of this canoe 
were not more than three inches above the water, it is 
amazing that they should have contemplated any sea 
voyage in it — ^much less a trip to Achin ! But the 
Malays now fitted it with “ outlagers,” or outriggers, 
such as may be seen on many native canoes to-day, and 
these had the effect of steadying the little craft, and 
preventing it from taking in too much water. So they 


sailed safely to the south of the island, and waited there, 
according to plan. The natives in this part were very- 
hostile, which gave Dampier an opportunity of trying 
his theories upon them. He would walk smilingly 
towards them, while they shook their weapons at him 
and howled with rage ; then, suddenly turning on his 
heel, he would present his back while he fired his musket 
towards the sea, “ so that they might see the shot graze 
on the water.” Thus he would indicate at once the 
sharpness of his claws and his desire not to use them 
unless compelled. The result was that they were pre- 
sently able to trade with the inhabitants, and purchase 
cocoanuts and native bread for their impending voyage. 

On the 15th May, 1688, Dampier and his seven com- 
panions set out from Nicobar on one of the most remark- 
able canoe voyages of which we have any record. Before 
leaving the “ Cygnet,” Dampier had studied the ship’s 
chart of the East Indies, and taken some notes in his 
pocket-book which were of good service now. He had 
also brought away his pocket compass. He says that 
Hall was the only one of his companions who had the 
least idea of the peril of their present undertaking, and 
that the responsibility for the lives of the other six, who 
trusted them wholeheartedly, weighed heavily upon these 
two. He and Hall took it in turns to steer. On the 
second day out, they found, to their keen disappointment, 
that the current had carried them back, so that they were 
again in sight of Nicobar. On the third day the wind 
freshened, and soon the sky was full of clouds and it 
blew a gale. That day, for the first time, Dampier was 
unable to take his usual observations of the sun ; but 
he kept up the entries in his diary both then and through- 
out this voyage. Having given his directions to Hall, 
and ordered the sail to be furled, he lay down to 

A few hours later they waked him. The wind was 



blowing harder, and the sea “ roaring in a white Foam 
about us.” There was “ a dark Night coming on and 
no Land in sight to shelter us, and our little Ark in 
danger to be swallowed by every Wave.” Worst of all, 
“ none of us thought ourselves prepared for another 
World.” There is the authentic Robinson Crusoe touch 
in Dampier’s reflections upon this occasion. Indeed, it 
is clear that the passage I am about to quote must have 
caught the eye of that great journalist, Daniel Defoe. I 
do not find Dampier in the same repentant mood any- 
where in the long history of his wanderings. He 
writes : 

“ I have been in many imminent Dangers before now, 
some of which I have already related, but the worst of 
them all was but a Play-game in comparison with this. 
. . . Other Dangers came not upon me with such a 
leisurely and dreadful Solemnity. A sudden Skirmish 
or Engagement or so was nothing when one’s Blood 
was up, and pushed forward with eager Expectations. 
But here I had a ling’ring view of approaching Death, 
and little or no hopes of escaping it ; and I must confess 
that my Courage which I had hitherto kept up failed 
me here ; and I made very sad Reflections on my former 
Life, and looked back with Horrour and Detestation on 
Actions which before I disliked, but now I trembled at 
the remembrance of. I had long before this repented 
me of that roving Course of Life, but never with such 
concern as now. I did also call to mind the many 
miraculous Acts of God’s Providence towards me in the 
whole Course of my Life, of which kind I believe few 
Men have met with the like. For all these I returned 
Thanks in a peculiar Manner, and thus once more 
desired God’s Assistance, and composed my Mind as 
well as I could in the Hope of it, and as the event 
shew’d, I was not disappointed of my Hopes.” 



There is a simple dignity and natural eloquence in that 
passage which Defoe himself could hardly have equalled. 

About midnight the wind abated, and they set their 
small mat-sail ; but at two o’clock it blew up again, 
and thunder and lightning followed with a heavy fall of 
rain, so that they were soaked to the skin and in “ a 
starveling plight.” Dampier or Hall steered, while the 
others baled for their lives. Only the outriggers pre- 
vented their “ little ark ” from sinking. By noon on 
the following day they came in sight of land, and early 
next morning on their fifth day out from Nicobar they 
got into a small harbour (apparently Passir) on the 
island of Sumatra, about a hundred miles east of Achin. 
They were so exhausted that it was all they could do to 
stagger into the nearest fishing village — ^where their 
Malays were fortunately “ well acquainted ” — ^and throw 
themselves down on the first beds that were oflFered. 
Here they lay for a fortnight, all the Europeans of the 
party racked with fever which they could not shake off. 
Dampier tried to bleed himself with his pen-knife, but 
the blade was too blunt. Natives would come to the 
door of their hut and stand in groups staring at them. 
At last a local notable sent them on by canoe to Achin, 
where the merchants of the English factory were much 
interested in their story, placed a room at their disposal, 
and left them to recover their health. In the case of 
two of them, it was too late. The Portuguese died 
within three days, and Ambrose a little later. Hall was 
almost given up, but eventually recovered. As for 
Dampier, his illness left him with a kind of chronic 
dysentery, which handicapped him for many months. 
Only an insatiable traveller would have defied it, as he 
did, instead of taking the first available passage home 
to England. 

It is also true that only a penniless adventurer, as he 
was, would have thought it necessary to get another job 



almost at once. Having refused the offer of a trip to 
Persia, Dampier next signed on with a Captain Weldon, 
to go with him on a voyage to Tonquin, this being 
the month of July, 1688. Weldon promised that at 
Tonquin he would buy a sloop and put Dampier in 
command of her to trade on the coast of Cochin China ; 
and this no doubt was an attractive prospect. Moreover, 
he might hope that the sea-voyage would restore his 
health, and that of his friend. Hall, who accompanied 
him, though in a very weak condition. The journey 
that followed is described in Dampier’s Voyage to Tonquin ; 
and it may be said at once that, in spite of his continued 
illness, his journal is nowhere more full and accurate 
and entertaining than it is at this time. The journey 
which he made in the country now called French Indo- 
China, entirely unaccompanied, ignorant of the language, 
and suffering all the time from his wasting disease, 
constituted a remarkable feat of endurance, and the liveli- 
ness of his descriptions shows that nothing could damp 
his spirits when there were strange sights to be seen. 
They sailed about twenty miles up the Tonquin river, 
and anchored. This was the spot normally resorted to 
by English trading vessels, and Dampier tells us that 
“ a little town ” had sprung up there in a month’s 

Cachao, or Cha-cho, another hundred miles up the 
river, was the capital of Tonquin, and there was an 
English factory there. Dampier visited this factory, 
travelling in the “ country boats,” and enjoying the 
“ delightful prospect of a large level fruitful country.” 
He stayed there seven or eight days, and gives us an 
account of the place almost as full as in the case of 
Mindanao. Returning to the ship, he “ lay on board 
for a great while and sickly for the most part ; yet not 
so much but that I took a boat and went ashoar one 
where or other almost every day.” And thus “ I took 


as particular notice as I could of the country.” Let us 
take a few of his observations at random. 

Of the local cooking — ^which must have been a subject 
of painful interest to him in view of the nature of his 
malady — ^he says : “ They have many Sorts of Dishes 
that would turn the Stomach of a Stranger.” He does 
not appear to have encountered the edible bird’s nest, 
but he refers with something like a shudder to a dish 
consisting mainly of raw pork. He greatly admired the 
lacquer-work, but remarks that their joiners or cabinet- 
makers were bunglers compared with ours. A certain 
Captain Pool was the first to take the wise step of bringing 
out joiners from England to make “ fashionable com- 
modities ” — cabinets, desks and so on — for the natives 
to lacquer afterwards. The Tonquinese earthenware was 
not such a marketable article as it had been before the 
superiority of the “ China ware” became known in Europe. 

It is rather surprising to find Dampier complaining 
of the ill-paved streets in Cachao. “ In the wet season,” 
he says, “ they are very dirty ; and in the dry time 
there are many stagnant Ponds, and some ditches full 
of black stinking mud in and about the city.” Yet 
seventeenth-century London had nothing “ on ” Cachao 
in this respect.^ The Tonquinese, he found, made excel- 
lent servants, like the Chinese ; but, like them, too, 
were slaves to “ the Reigning Vice among the Eastern 
Nations ” — gaming. “ Neither the awe of their Masters, 

^ Only a proportion of the London streets were paved. All were very 
muddy and bestrewn with “ base, ill-favoured rubbish,” so that passers- 
by were “forced to stop their noses” according to a contemporary 
authority. The Strand was so bad that merchants and others often had 
to leave their coaches stuck there in the mire and complete the journey 
to the City by the river. Pepys nearly broke his leg crossing London 
Bridge one night, through putting his foot into a large hole in the roadway. 
English roads in general have never been so bad, before or since, as in 
this half-century following the Civil War. And those of Somerset 
(Dampier’s native county) had a specially evil reputation ! 



nor anything else is sufficient to restrain them till they 
have lost all they have, even their very Cloathes.” Here 
we are confronted by the unchanging East. It is hardly an 
exaggeration to say that if Dampier were to start on his 
travels again to-day he might wander over that particular 
part of the world without noticing any change, provided 
he kept away from the ports and the occasional railway 

After five or six weeks of spasmodic sight-seeing, with 
the ship as his base, he became “ weary of lying still and 
impatient of seeing something that might further gratify 
my curiosity.” So he hired a Tonquinese guide for 
one dollar, and started up the river again, this time on 
foot in order to see as much as possible of the surrounding 
country. In his pocket he had just two dollars ! His 
fever, “ which I brought from Achin,” had left him, but 
the dysentery was worse than ever, owing to his having 
foolishly eaten fruit. 

His guide could not speak a word of English nor he 
of Tonquinese. On the whole, it was an adventurous 
undertaking, even for an ex-buccaneer. They did not 
stick to the tow-path, but struck out boldly across 
country. The people, as a rule, were remarkably 
kind and courteous to Dampier, who must have seemed 
a far ‘stranger figure to them than even the modern 
tourist does. At every village they came to, this ill- 
assorted pair were given lodgings for the night ; and 
after supper — ^usually of rice and eggs or a roasted yam — 
Dampier, if the evening was not too hot, “ took a ramble 
about the Village to see what was worth taking notice 
of.” It was generally dark before he returned to his 
rough couch. ” My guide,” he says, “ carried my sea- 
gown, which was my covering in the night, and my 
pillow was a log of wood.” He can hardly have been 
unaware of the risk he ran — or, if he was, it was abruptly 
borne in upon him a few days later. 



They were wandering across some fields on the third 
day of their journey when they observed a large crowd 
of natives assembled round a small wooden tower. There 
were stalls loaded with fruit and meat — ^Dampier esti- 
mates that there must have been “ fifty or sixty hogs 
cut up ” — and a busy air of coming and going, which 
suggested to Dampier that this must be a market. The 
only thing that puzzled him was the tower, and when 
they reached the crowd he elbowed his way through to 
have a look at it. “I went round the tower and viewed 
it. ... I saw no door to enter in : it seemed very 
slightly built with thin boards.” It was, as a matter 
of fact, a funeral pyre, and the whole scene — ^the crowd, 
the stalls and the food — ^were but part of the ceremonial 
connected with the decease of a local notable, who was 
now about to be cremated, along with a handsome 
supply of provisions for use in the other world. Dampier 
was quite unaware of this. Leaving the tower, he turned 
towards the stalls. It was now “ between four and five 
o’clock In the afternoon,” and he was wanting his 
“ supper ” ; so he walked up to the meat stalls, and 
taking hold of a quarter of pork made signs for a piece 
to be cut off for him. Instantly Bedlam broke loose. 
The crowd set upon him. “ They assaulted me on all 
sides, buffeting me and rending my Cloathes, and one 
of them snatched away my Hat.” The guide, who had 
no doubt been vainly trying to explain the situation, 
now plunged in to the rescue. He dragged Dampier 
out of the crowd, and dusted him down, and even 
succeeded in recovering his hat for him. Then, after 
profuse apologies to the angry mourners, he led our 
hero away in a somewhat chastened mood. 

On the fifth day they reached Hean, and here 
Dampier dismissed his guide, and went on alone by 
river boat. He sat on the deck among the native 
passengers, feeling very lonely and very ill again. They 



were a jovial enough party, “ but I was mute for want 
of a person I could converse with.” Finally he reached 
Cachao, and, after some difficulty, found his way to an 
English merchant’s house, where he was hospitably 
entertained. He learnt, however, that Weldon had no 
intention of purchasing the sloop which was to have 
been given to him, and he therefore returned to the ship 
and went back to Achin with her when she sailed. He 
had undoubtedly enjoyed his trip to Tonquin, and prob- 
ably thought it well worth the discomfort he had endured. 
But his continued ill-health had become a question that 
could no longer be trifled with, and he therefore settled 
down quietly to live at Achin for a time, not seeking 
any work, and dieting himself on “ salt fish broyled and 
boiled rice, mixed with tire (or sour milk).” The only 
excitement during this period was a civil commotion 
among the natives, some of whom wanted to get rid of 
their Queen. The European residents, warned by the 
authorities, packed up their valuables and rowed out to 
the ships in the harbour, where they spent the night. 
Dampier, who was still wretchedly ill, lay on his back 
in one of the small boats, unable to sleep. As he stared 
up at the sky, he noted that there was an eclipse of the 
moon ; but he was too ill even to make a note of the 
date in his diary. 

When he was able to get about again, Dampier 
sailed from Achin as mate of a trading ship, with a 
crew of Moors under him. On their way to Malacca, 
they spoke a Danish ship, and he found his old friend, 
Herman Coppinger, on board. The surgeon had at last 
succeeded in eluding the buccaneers, but he had not yet 
found a means of getting back to England. In Malacca, 
Dampier’s captain sold opium and other things. On 
the way back, they had an amusing adventure at one of 
the Dutch islands. It should be interjected here that 
the Dutch had now become quite polite and helpful 


towards English traders. Dampier, in one of his rare 
allusions to politics, opines that “ the news of our 
Revolution [that of 1688] in England had sweetened 
them ; for they often drank the King’s health with us 
very heartily.” 

The Governor of this particular island had invited 
the English skipper and his passengers (including a lady) 
to supper, and had sent out his men in boats to secure 
a supply of fish for the occasion. He had also provided 
punch, concocted from brandy, lime-juice and sugar. 
Dampier, who had already dined with the Governor, was 
left in charge of the ship, and was astonished to hear a 
wild commotion on shore just when the festivities should 
have been at their height. 

What had happened was that in the middle of supper, 
one of the Governor’s soldiers had burst in upon the 
company crying out, “ The Malayans 1 ” The Governor 
instantly sprang out of the window, followed by his 
officers. “ Everyone of them,” says Dampier, “ took 
the nearest way, some out of the Windows, others out 
of the Doors, leaving the three Guests by themselves.” 
The latter, when they had recovered from their astonish- 
ment — for they had not understood a word that was 
said — ^followed their hosts at their best speed, and pre- 
sently found them all taking refuge in the fort. It then 
appeared that one of the Governor’s fishing-boats had 
been attacked by Malays and several of the fishers killed. 
Dampier, on the ship, was not greatly alarmed, for it 
was raining, and he knew from experience that the 
Malays never undertook military operations in bad 
weather. In this case he was right. It is plain, however, 
from his rather malicious description of the behaviour 
of the Dutchmen, that he hugely enjoyed the whole 

Returning to Achin again, he met another member 
of Read’s crew, who gave him a sad account of their 



fate. Some of them had joined the great Mogul, and 
were last heard of plundering villages in the south of 
India, and “ fleeing when they were pursued ” — in fact 
behaving like brigands. Others took shore service under 
a native prince in Madagascar. Read deserted his ship, 
and got a passage to New York ; Teat joined the 
Mogul ; and the “ Cygnet ” herself, with a crew of 
strangers on board, was lost in the Red Sea on the way 
home to England. 

Dampier made several other trading voyages : one to 
Fort St. George — he gives us an interesting description 
of Madras in the year 1690 — and another to Bencoolen, 
in Sumatra, where there was an English factory, and 
where the Governor offered him the post of chief gunner 
at the fort, with the duty of advising on the rebuilding 
of the fortifications. That Dampier should have been 
looked upon as an expert in military architecture seems 
to reflect unfavourably upon the intelligence of the 
Governor himself and his officers. However, he accepted 
the post, and remained there for some months. He 
staked out a new bastion “ with the curtain belonging 
to it.” He began, and had almost finished a second, 
but found that “ the Governor would not gratify me 
for my pains, so in the night I had the stakes out of the 
ground, and put them to seek a new method, for I knew 
none of them did understand how to do it.” ^ Obviously 
no man could have been with the buccaneers for close 
on ten years without acquiring a rough knowledge of 
how to build fortifications — and especially of how to do 
it quickly — ^but that neither the Governor nor his officers 
should have been able to carry on in his absence, not 
even with one of his models before them, is an astonish- 
ing fact. 

About this time he had purchased a half-share in the 
possession of an unfortunate native chief, the “ Prince 
^ Dampiar’s marginal note in the manuscript of his journal. 



Jeoly ” or the “ Painted Prince,” as he calls him. He 
had first seen Jeoly at Mindanao, where he was being 
offered for sale to European visitors. He was a prisoner 
of war from one of the islands, and his attraction in 
the eyes of Dampier and Moody (the other part-owner) 
was that his body was covered with tattoo marks of an 
unusually elaborate pattern, which, it was thought, might 
be exhibited in England with considerable profit to the 
showmen. This unfortunate black was now at Bencoolen 
with Dampier. So was his mother ; but she died, and 
Dampier buried her under the walls of the fort. He 
then addressed himself to the task of consoling her son, 
whose grief was such that he nearly followed her to the 
grave — s. calamity which Dampier was determined to 
avert at all costs. Nor must we exclude the possibility 
that he may have become attached to his “ painted 
prince ” — “ whom I might have made a great deal of 
money by.” 

Dampier soon got tired of Bencoolen, and especially 
of the Governor “ whose humours were brutish and 
barbarous.” Also “ I began to long after my native 
country, after so tedious a ramble from it.” Accordingly 
on the 2nd January, 1691, he applied for permission 
to return to England, a homeward-bound ship, the 
“ Defence ” (Captain Heath), having just then arrived 
in harbour. The CJovernor refused to let him go ; so 
he sent Jeoly on board, and himself slipped out at mid- 
night, “ creeping through one of the portholes of the 
fort,” and getting off to the ship without being missed. 
Next morning the vessel sailed, and Dampier entered 
upon the last stage of his first circumnavigation of the 

It was an unpleasant voyage. There was some 
mysterious disease on board which proved fatal to no 
fewer than thirty of the ship’s company before they 
reached the Cape. Dampier thinks it was due to the 


water, and adds that the food was also very bad. How- 
ever, Captain Heath struggled on, with barely enough 
men to work the ship, and he was able to get some 
additional hands at the Cape. After that they called at 
St. Helena (then in the possession of the English East 
India Company), where they stayed for some days, ^d 
where the appearance of Jeoly caused a mild sensation 
among the inhabitants. On July 2nd, in company with 
two other ships, they resumed their voyage to England, 
and on September i8th they were off the coast of 
England and cast anchor in the Downs. Dampier had 
been away for twelve years, and we will presume that 
poor Judith, “ from the household of the Duke of 
Grafton,” was glad to see him back again. 

He landed in England penniless. All his boyhood’s 
dreams of buccaneers loaded with booty, the spoils of 
fair cities in West and East, had vanished into thin air. 
He owned nothing but the clothes he stood up in. In 
his hurried flight from Bencoolen, he had left behind 
him all his ” books, drafts and instruments, clothes and 
bedding and wages.” He had not brought back so 
much as a parrot — only the faded, sea-stained, scarcely 
legible sheets of his journal, tucked away in an inner 
pocket ; and a half-share in this wretched, shivering 
blackamoor. The fate of Jeoly is easily foreseen. 
Dampier was soon compelled to sell his interest in him 
for ready money. Removed from the care of one who 
at any rate understood something of his requirements, 
the unlucky prince was carted about England in the cold 
autumn weather, until he finally caught smallpox at 
Oxford and died. Mr. Masefield has unearthed a folio 
broadsheet of the date 1691-92, which contains the 
following vivid description of Jeoly : 

“ This famous Painted Prince is the just wonder of 
the Age, his whole Body (except Face, Hands and Feet) 


is curiously and most exquisitely fainted or stained full 
of Variety of Invention, with prodigious Art and Skill 
perform’d. In so much, that the antient and noble 
Mystery of Painting or Staining upon Humane Bodies 
seems to be comprised in this one stately Piece. 

“ The Pictures and those other engraven Figures 
painted from him, and now dispersed abroad, serve only 
to describe as much as they can of the Fore-parts of 
this inimitable Piece of workmanship. The more admir- 
able Back Parts afford us a Lively Representation of one 
quarter part of the World upon and betwixt his shoulders, 
where the Arcktick and Tropick Circles center in the 
North Pole on his Neck. 

“ This admirable Person is about the age of Thirty, 
graceful and well proportioned in all his Limbs. . . . 
He is e^osed to publick view every day (during his 
stay in Town) from the i6th day of this instant June, 
at his Lodgings at the Blew Boar’s Head in Fleet Street, 
near Water Lane : where he will continue for some 
time, if his health will permit. 

“ But if any Persons of Quality, Gentlemen or Ladies, 
do desire to see this noble Person at their own Houses, 
or any other convenient place, in or about this City of 
London : they are desired to send timely notice, and 
he will be ready to wait upon them in a Coach or Chair, 
any time they please to appoint, if in the day time. 


There is a curious portrait of Jeoly, engraved by Savage, 
with a narrative of his adventures attached, also a smaller 
one, copied from the above, with a purely fictitious life- 
history. Dampier always threw cold water on these 
romantic stories about his captive. All that was really 
known of him, he explained, was contained in the brief 
references in the Voyages. 




Nothing is known of Dampier’s movements during 
the next five years. No doubt he went to live with his 
own people in the West Country — not at East Coker, 
but at his brother’s farm in Dorsetshire, or on the small 
estate which he himself now possessed in that county. 
The famil y seem to have been fairly prosperous — there 
is an allusion in a letter to “ our ryefields ” and other 
property — and they were probably inclined at first to 
look upon Dampier as a poor relation of rather doubtful 

Brother George, the farmer, was a man of enterprising 
mind, very different from the ordinary bucolic type. 
Indeed he seems to have had a keener eye for the main 
chance than William ever displayed. About this time 
he blossomed out as the inventor of a patent medicine, 
known as “ Dampier’s powder,” which he claimed to 
be an infallible cure for hydrophobia. It was made of 
Jew’s-ear and pepper. At the moment, William Dampier 
could be of little assistance in promoting the sale of 
this interesting remedy ; but five years later, when he 
had become acquainted with the President of the Royal 
Society and other prominent people, we find George’s 
medicine inserted in the 237th number of the Philo- 
sophical Transactions. There is a grateful letter from 
George to William (who was in London), dated “ Ex- 
mouth, Feb. 2nd, 1697-8,” in which he thanks him for 
having shown “ my letter and medicine for the bite of 
a mad dog ” to a number of gentlemen, and magnani- 
mously agrees that “ for the good of others I am free 
that those worthy and incomparable ingenious gentle- 
men may use their pleasure about it.” I am afraid that 
this association can have done brother William little good 
in the end. 

It has been assumed ^ that Dampier made at least one 

^ E.g. by Mr. Masefield and Sir Albert Gray. 


voyage on a merchant ship during this period of five 
years after his return from the East. If he did so — 
and we should expect it of his restless spirit — it is 
surprising, to put it mildly, that so conscientious a 
diarist should have left no kind of record behind. Yet 
the evidence is at first sight irresistible. Towards the 
end of his New Voyage^ in his brief account of the journey 
home from Bencoolen, he remarks incidentally that on 
one occasion he felt just such a wind from the shore as 
he had also encountered “ as I lay at anchor at the Groin 
in July i 6 g 4 ." Now “ The Groin ” was, of course, the 
old name for Corunna. That sounds clear enough : he 
was at Corunna in 1694 — ^three years after his home- 
coming from the East. 

But it is a curious coincidence that, in the manu- 
script, the copyist has made a mistake in the date of his 
departure from Bencoolen, which is given as “ January 
25th, 1 694,” instead of 1 69 1 . Dampier has added some 
of his marginal notes just here, but they do not correct 
this mistake, which evidently escaped his attention. The 
next date given in the manuscript (that of the departure 
from St. Helena) is correct. The passage about Corunna 
would come in between these two dates ; but it does 
not, as a fact, appear in the manuscript, having been 
interposed later with several other pages of additional 
matter, for the purposes of the published book. It is, 
therefore, a feasible theory that some copyist may have 
added the year to the date of the Corunna incident, 
copying it from the wrong date which he would see just 
above in the manuscript. Against this is the fact that 
the other mistake (in the date of the departure from 
Bencoolen) was put right in the published book. But I 
find it hard to believe that Dampier, whose voyages have 
been described more fully than those of any other man 
of his time, both by himself and by his enemies, succeeded 
in sandwiching in this mysterious anonymous trip, as 



to which we have not a single other word from any 
source whatever.^ 

I think that he just stayed quietly at home, resting 
himself, until the spring of the year 1697. But he 
would have to spend a good deal of time in London, 
consulting his publisher, James Knapton. His book 
was now on the stocks. The journal which he had 
taken so much trouble to preserve, sealing it up in a 
piece of hollow bamboo as he swam the rivers of the 
Darien Peninsula, smuggling it out of the Bencoolen 
Fort when all his other papers were left behind, drying 
it over the fire on the beach at Nicobar, sitting up at 
night on pirate ships and trading vessels to fill in the 
day’s entry, was now to be turned into money at 

Probably he did not expect to make much out of it. 
Of the two acquisitions which he brought home with 
him from the East — all that he had to show for twelve 
years’ endeavour — ^there is no doubt that he believed 
Jeoly to be a far more valuable property than the journal. 
Knapton must have known better. He did not hurry 
with the printing, but that may be explained by the 
fact, which Dampier himself admits, that the manuscript 
was submitted to a number of the author’s friends for 
their suggestions and corrections, before it was sent to 
the press. Dampier’s enemies, at a later date, even 
suggested that he did not write the book himself, and 
at the beginning of his next book, the Voyage to New 
Holland^ he goes out of his way to reply to this absurd 
charge, arguing that “ the best and most eminent authors 
are not ashamed ” to have their work “ revised and 
corrected by friends.” 

^ It is possible that he might have been at Corunna in 1691, as he 
returned from the East ; for he mentions that his ship was temporarily 
separated from her consorts in the Bay of Biscay by a storm, and Corunna 
would be a convenient refuge from the weather. 



There was no need for such excuses : Dampier was 
always the world’s worst controversialist. A comparison 
between the original manuscript in the Sloane Collec- 
tion ^ and the published book completely disposes of the 
charge. It shows that Dampier himself did all the 
revising and the correcting. The manuscript, as we 
have seen, is covered with his marginal notes, most of 
which, though not all, are incorporated in the book. 
The other new matter in the book consists of natural 
history notes from all parts of the world and some other 
details of fact (such as the reference to Corunna) which 
no one but Dampier himself could have added. It is 
plain that his friends made no additions to the book : 
they can only have advised as to what should be included 
or omitted. It is also perfectly plain to any discerning 
reader that the whole is written in Dampier’s own very 
individual style. 

But though his friends, whoever they were, cannot 
have helped him much, a good deal of time would be 
lost in passing the manuscript round among them, and 
so the publication of the book was delayed till 1697. 
When it did appear, it was an instantaneous success, and 
ran into three editions within a few months. Dampier 
woke up to find himself famous. He had dedicated his 
great work to Charles Montague, the President of the 
Royal Society ; but he evidently did not know his 
patron personally at the time, for with his usual modesty 
he apologized for “ the boldness of a stranger ” in 
venturing to lay the book before him. It is unlikely 
that he had any acquaintance among prominent people 
at this stage. 

But with the appearance of his book the scene changed 
like magic, and the Dorsetshire farm can have seen very 
little of him after this. Charles Montague took him 
up, and it was, no doubt, on his recommendation that 

^ No. 3236. 



in August, 1697, Dampier was given a post as a “ land- 
carriage man ” in the Customs. The salary attached to 
this post was only ;^8, 1 5s. a quarter, but that was a 
sum not altogether contemptible in those days, and, what 
was more valuable from Dampier’s point of view, he 
was able to arrange for it to be paid to his wife during 
his subsequent long absences from England. Thus the 
long-neglected Judith was provided for. He was begin- 
ning to be taken notice of in official circles, too. In 
July, 1698, he was ordered to appear before the Council 
of Trade and Plantations to be “ examined as to the 
design of the Scotch East India Company to make a 
settlement on the Isthmus of Darien ” under William 
Paterson. Lionel Wafer was another witness, and the 
two men were able to give the Council first-hand de- 
scriptions of the country it was proposed to colonize. 
Dampier, as we know, had “ golden dreams ” in his 
head about the fortunes that might be made out of the 
gold mines of Darien, if worked by slave labour ; but 
apart from that it seems unlikely that the evidence of 
himself and Wafer can have given the Council much 
encouragement to persist with the scheme. 

Other leading men in the scientific world who now 
became Dampier’s friends were Sir Robert SouthwelH 
and Sir Hans Sloane ^ ; and I think it must have been 
about this time that the latter ordered the explorer’s 
portrait to be painted by Thomas Murray. It hangs in 
the National Portrait Gallery, and, as I have said, tells 
us more about Dampier the man than could be obtained 
from any bare record of his private life at the time. As 
to that, we have only one piece of evidence of import- 

^ Diplomatist and man of letters; President of the Royal Society from 
1690 to 1695. 

® The distinguished collector, patron of men of science and founder 
of the British Museum. He became Secretary of the Royal Society in 
1693, and succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as its President in 1727. 


ance — ^the invaluable entry in Evelyn’s Diary, under date 
August 6th, 1698. I quote it in full : 

“ I dined with Mr. Pepys, where was Captain Dampier, 
who had been a famous buccaneer, had brought hither 
the painted prince Job,^ and printed a relation of his 
very strange adventures and his observations. He was 
now going abroad again by the King’s encouragement, 
who firrnished a ship of 290 tons. He seemed a more 
modest man than one would imagine by relation of the 
crew he had assorted with. He brought a map of his 
observations of the course of the winds in the South 
Seas, and assured us that the maps hitherto extant were 
all false as to the Pacific Sea, which he makes on the 
South of the line, that on the North end running by the 
coast of Peru being extremely tempestuous.” 

Evelyn did not forget this meeting. In his Numis- 
mata : a Discourse of Medals, which was published in 
the following year (1699), he makes the very proper 
suggestion that among those “ famous and illustrious 
persons ” whose heads might well appear upon medals 
specially struck to commemorate their “ most signal 
works and actions ” there should be included, under the 
heading of “ Great Travellers,” the name of Captain 
William Dampier. He rather spoils it, however, by 
adding “ and the rest of the Buccaneers.” Still worse, 
he thinks there might be a medal struck in memory of 
that pathetic, but slightly ridiculous figure, Prince Jeoly. 
As to Dampier’s criticism of the maps, it may be remarked 
parenthetically that the word “ Pacific ” was then used 
in a literal sense ; and Dampier was undoubtedly right 
when he said that it was too flattering a description of 
some parts of the South Seas. 

The new voyage, which Dampier was about to under- 

^ Jeoly. 



take “ by the King’s encouragement,” was, of course, 
that of the “ Roebuck,” to be described in the next 
chapter. It is to be observed that he had been given 
this important appointment in the year following the 
publication of his book. It was, in fact, the book — 
not the voyages themselves — ^that had “ made ” him. He 
might have wandered about the world for the rest of 
his life, filling his journal with observations of the highest 
importance for the futme of exploration, without attract- 
ing any particular attention, if the great success of his 
book had not forced him upon the notice of those in 
authority. He had won fame not as a traveller, but as 
a travel-writer. 

Some perception of this may have come to him ; for 
he instantly fell in with Knapton’s suggestion that he 
should produce another volume. Before the “ Roebuck ” 
was ready to sail in January, 1699, his Supplement to the 
Voyage Round the Worlds together with the Voyage to 
Campeachy and the Discourse on the Trade Winds (consti- 
tuting the second volume of his Voyages)^ was already in 
the printer’s hands. Unfortunately the printers had not 
done with it when he sailed ; for he wrote from the 
Downs to Lord Orford, First Lord of the Admiralty, 
apologizing for not being able to send him a copy, and 
explaining that “ the gentleman that I employed to 
compile an Index [it is the weakest feature of the book] 
has occasioned the delay.” I say “ unfortunately,” 
because Dampier would have been gratified if he could 
have witnessed the reception given to this book. It 
probably did even more for his reputation among 
educated and “ ingenious ” people than his first volume 
had done. 

Still, we find him now a man of reputation, his talents 
widely recognized, his name familiar in every coffee- 
house, and his authority as a geographer and hydro- 
grapher accepted as it deserved to be. He is at last 


reaping the reward of all that conscientious note-taking 
from the West Indies to Cochin China, and of all the 
trouble he took to preserve his notes when written. In 
a sense, indeed, this is the apex of his career, though his 
greatest voyage of discovery — that of the “ Roebuck ” 
to Australia — is yet to come. He is full of confidence. 
He feels that he knows the oceans of the world as no 
other living Englishman knows them. Since he left 
that little grammar-school in Somerset on his career of 
adventure, he has, with much labour, taught himself 
everything that an explorer ought to know. He is now 
forty-seven, and the time has come to prove it. 

Alas ! there is just one thing he has forgotten to 
learn — ^the habit of command. He does not yet realize 
that his long association with the buccaneers in a 
subordinate position (though that was by his own choice), 
his long acquiescence in their slipshod ways and their 
occasional brutal punishments in place of a proper 
system of discipline, have bred in him unconsciously a 
certain attitude of mind in regard to these matters, 
which will prove more or less of a handicap for the rest 
of his life, and will be one (though only one among 
many) of the causes which, as we shall see in the next 
chapter, placed the greatest prize of all just beyond his 



H HENEVER you hear Dampier de- 
scribed as a failure or a might-have- 
been ; damned with faint praise in 
the Dictionary of National Biography ; 
or denied even his right to a place in 
the roll of “ Men of Action ” — ^he 
who had gone abroad in his ’teens, 
fought in the Royal Navy, served 
with the buccaneers, and three times circumnavigated 
the globe ! — ^whenever you hear this kind of criticism, 
you will know that what the critic has in mind is the 
voyage of H.M.S. “ Roebuck ” to Australia. Dampier’s 
bitterest enemy cannot say that, as an explorer, he missed 
any other chance in the whole of his career. But he 
might have discovered Australia ; he might have antici- 
pated Cook ; and the simple fact is that he did not. 
How far it was his own fault, or the fault of the 

Admiralty, or the fault of his cantankerous lieutenant 
and backboneless crew is quite beside the point. An 
explorer is judged on the additions he makes to the 
map ; and while Dampier’s discoveries in Australia 
were important, were sensational, in the year 1700, and 
still rank as memorable achievements, they did not solve 
the great problem which was waiting to be solved — 
they did not disclose the Continent of Australia. It was 
touch-and-go ; it might almost be said that a mere 


accident prevented him ; but accidents are the stuff of 
which history is made. 

In this chapter we shall see what in fact he did 
accomplish, and shall be able to judge for ourselves of 
the importance of a voyage of discovery which was 
undoubtedly the greatest made by any Englishman for 
over half a century ; and of the fairness of describing it 
as a “ failure ” in the light of our much more recently 
acquired knowledge of the things it just missed. We 
have noted Dampier’s rather disappointing attitude 
towards Australia, or New Holland, when he visited it 
with Read’s buccaneers ; but he was then in uncon- 
genial company, whose only object was to make money, 
and the place itself and its inhabitants had impressed 
him unfavourably. In the seclusion of his home in 
Dorsetshire his ideas widened, and he began to see that 
Read had missed a great opportunity. The position 
and extent of the Terra Australis Incognita was a common 
subject of conversation in England at that time. A 
translation of Tasman’s journal, in which the gallant 
Dutchman described his discovery of Tasmania, was 
published in London in 1694. From passages in his 
letters it is clear that Dampier realized as well as anyone 
that Australia was probably a continent, and the more 
he thought the matter over, the more plainly he saw 
that here was the great opening for exploration. He 
also, with prophetic insight, considered Australia “ a 
country likely to contain gold.” He therefore put up 
a proposal^ to the Admiralty to the effect that one of 
the King’s ships should be fitted out to explore the coast 
of New Holland. In this memorandum he observes 
that, apart from Australia, “ there are several places 
which might probably be visited with good advantage ” ; 
but adds that “ there is no larger tract of land hitherto 

^ Probably in response to the request of Lord Orfofd, the First Lord, 
to whom Charles Montague had introduced him- 



undiscovered than the Terra Australis, if that vast space 
surrounding the South Pole, and extending so far into 
the warmer climate be a continued land, as a great deal 
of it is known to be.” 

Yet he still envisaged a voyage to Madagascar, and 
from thence “ directly to the Northernmost part of New 
Holland ” — ^in other words, to that same North-western 
corner of the continent where he had already landed. 
Perhaps he was still hankering after “ warm voyages,” 
still remembering with a shudder the deadly cold of that 
early trip of his to Newfoundland, when he had sworn 
that he would never sail so far from the Equator again. 
At any rate, better, wider ideas prevailed, and in the 
spring of 1698, when he had been definitely commis- 
sioned to undertake the voyage, he made up his mind 
to sail round the Horn, and so fall in with Australia 
on the east coast, and follow the coast northward along 
it till he came to New Guinea. Had he done so, it is 
hardly conceivable that he should have failed to realize 
the extent of his discovery. Even with his crazy ship 
and his half-hearted crew he must have got in before 
Cook, and remade the map. 

But delay followed delay, and the sailing in September 
turned out to be as wild a dream as the gold mines of 
Darien. He was continually being called up to London 
to advise the Government. The Council of Trade and 
Plantations wanted to know^ whether he had heard of 
any proposals or bribes offered to Lionel Wafer by the 
Scotch East India Company. He replied (in July, 1 698) 
that he had not, and added that W^afer would be in- 
capable of doing the Scotch East India Company any 
great service. On September 27th, on the principle 
of setting a thief to catch a thief, he was called in again 
to advise about fitting out a squadron against the pirates 

Calendar of State. Papirs. Colonial Series. (America and the West 


“ to the East of the Cape of Good Hope.” Again he is 
asked on the 26th how long a ship might be “ running 
from England to Madagascar at this time of year.” He 
replies at length, giving three and a half months as the 
best possible time. 

But these were minor delays. The real trouble was 
with the ship, the crew, the stores, and so forth. As 
early as March a 5th — so pleased was Lord Orford with 
the idea of this voyage of exploration — ^Dampier had 
been appointed to command the “Jolly Prize,” “when 
fitted out ” ; but at the beginning of July he reported 
that the “ Jolly Prize ” was “ altogether unfit for the 
designed voyage.” After a considerable pause, he was 
given another vessel, the “ Roebuck,” a King’s ship 
carrying twelve guns and a crew of fifty men and boys, 
and provisioned for twenty months. She was a fifth- 
rater, almost certainly of two decks, and had previously 
been a fireship. She was then at Deptford, and did 
not leave till October 6th ; and on the 1 3th, as she lay 
at Tilbury, she got into collision with the “ Isabella 
Pink ” and damaged her head and sprit topmast. 

She finally anchored in the Downs on the 22nd and 
Dampier went down there to see to her fitting-out. He 
was disappointed at the smallness of his crew, and says 
so in one of his letters to Lord Orford. The following 
officers were engaged : Jacob Hughes, master ; George 
Fisher, lieutenant ; Philip Paine, gunner ; R. Chadwick 
and John Knight, mates. The doctor and the captain’s 
clerk were “ two Scotch dogs,” ^ named William 
Borthwick and James Brand. Further delays took place 
over the appointment of a boatswain, and when Dampier 
at last engaged a suitable man, there were violent 
quarrels, as we shall see, between the bo’sun and the 

^ Lieut. Fisher’s name for them, as stated by John Rumbold in evidence 
before the court-martial. 



About November 2 ist Dampier wrote to Lord Orford, 
setting forth “ what I would propose to have put into 
my instructions ” — ^which shows that he really drew up 
the instructions himself. He explains that it is now 
too late in the year to go round the Horn,^ and he 
would therefore have to sail via the Cape of Good Hope. 
He asks that a small gratuity or even a “ promise of 
somewhat at our return ” may be offered to his men to 
keep them cheerful, and inspire them with “ a generous 
resolution of hazarding their persons.” He hopes their 
lordships will not think him “ too bold ” in asking for 
all this ; he is still “ much a stranger to his Majesty’s 
service,” and may have erred in etiquette. 

On November 30th came his formal instructions from 
the Admiralty, directing him to proceed to the Cape, 
“ and from thence to stretch away towards New Holland.” 
They gave him permission “ to steer any other course ” 
if he saw fit ; but reminded him that the expedition 
was an expensive one, and that he must “ take a special 
care ” to use his best endeavour to make some discovery 
of value. He is only to bring home natives (as he had 
suggested) “provided they shall be willing to come 
along.” A vague promise is made to the men “ that 
such of them as shall behave themselves well and cheer- 
fully perform their duty in this affaire, which ’tis hoped 
may tend to the advantage of the nation, shall at their 
return receive all fitting reward and encouragement.” 

So the idea of an early start in September and a 
voyage round Cape Horn was already abandoned. And 
already the internal squabbles which were to act as a 
powerful brake on the expedition, and in which George 
Fisher was the leading spirit, had made their appearance 
on board. Fisher’s complaints may be studied in detail 
in the evidence which he gave before the court-martial, 

^ So kte a start would mean that he would be rounding the “ Cape of 
Storms ” in the very depth of the winter. 


which was held after Dampier returned to England. It 
will be more convenient here to take them chrono- 
logically, mentioning each “ incident ” as it occurred in 
the course of the voyage. Fisher was obviously looking 
for trouble from the day he joined the ship ; for in 
giving his evidence he is so particular in his dates that 
we can only conclude that he must have kept a note-book 
for the purpose. To mention each of his complaints 
may seem like giving undue prominence to petty 
grievances ; but they have an historical value in the 
light which they throw, not only on Dampier, but on 
life on shipboard at the end of the seventeenth century. 

Obviously the root of the trouble between Dampier 
and Fisher was the captain’s somewhat shady past. 
Dampier was an ex-buccaneer, Fisher a regular officer of 
the King’s Navy. It is true that he only joined as a 
volunteer in 1689 (he served with some distinction in 
William’s fleet at the relief of Londonderry), but, as 
so often happens in these cases, he was more forward 
to assert the dignity of the service than any grey- 
haired martinet. The first “ incident ” occurred on 
November ist. The flagship of Sir Clowdisley Shovell ^ 
had appeared in the Downs, and it behoved all the 
King’s ships there to mind their p’s and q’s. Fisher 
was called on board the flagship, and there found 
Dampier, who, according to his story, took him aside, 
and said that while he (Fisher) had been ashore “ there 
was like to have been a mutiny on board the ‘ Roebuck,’ 
for that James Grigson and T. Knight had been drinking 
with the Boatswaine in his cabin, and was overheard by 
the Master to swear that when they came to Sea they 
would heave the Master overboard and run away with 
the King’s ship.” Dampier is alleged to have added 

Appointed Admiral of the Blue, 1696. He was also Comptroller 
of Victualling at this time. In 1705 he was made commander-in-chief 
of the Fleet. 



that he “ did not like the Boatswaine *’ and to have 
“ demanded Fisher’s advice in the case.” 

It would not be unnatural that he, who in his own 
words was still “ much a stranger to his Majesty’s 
service,” should have discussed the matter with a regular 
officer. If so, his confidence was ill-rewarded. Fisher 
says he merely advised Dampier to tell the Admiral 
about it, and he complains that Dampier did nothing of 
the kind — ^which again we can well understand. On 
November 5th Captain Jumper and Captain Cleasbie, 
Sir Clowdisley Shovell’s secretary, came on board the 
“ Roebuck ” “ to see if our crew were seamen ” — in 
other words to inspect. Fisher, as they arrived, “ com- 
manded the Boatswaine to order the Pinnace astern out 
of their way, but he answered with an Oath that he 
would not obey his commands when the Captain was 
on board,” So that Jumper and Cleasbie had to climb 
over the pinnace to get on board the “ Roebuck ” — a 
very undignified proceeding. Fisher complained to 
Dampier of the bo’sun’s conduct, and he did it, char- 
acteristically enough, in the presence of the two visiting 
captains. Dampier, according to him, was “ told by 
them that he ought to see that Fisher should be protected 
in his commands.” They also “ reprimanded the 
Boatswaine ” — n piece of interference which I imagine 
no captain would tolerate nowadays. 

All this, it should be noted, is taken from Fisher’s 
own account of events. Dampier, who had obviously 
forgotten all dates and details, replied at the court- 
martial only in the vaguest terms. He was, as I have 
said, the world’s worst controversialist. His idea of an 
answer to this rigmarole was to tell the court-martial 
that “ when the ship lay in the Downs,” Fisher, in 
conversation with the gunner, said, “ Damn him for an 
old rogue, he minds nothing ” — ^meaning Dampier. He 
also says that on some other unspecified date, Fisher 


was heard by the doctor, the purser and Brand (one of the 
“ Scotch dogs”) to speak disrespectfully of the Lords of 
the Admiralty, and “ was reproved for it by the Captain.” 
It is hard to say which story is the less convincing. 

But in the Master’s Log, kept by Hughes, there is a 
reference which throws new light on the incident.^ 
Evidently there was some kind of “ trial ” or inquiry 
into the quarrel between Fisher and the boatswain ; for 
on November 21,“ the order came ” that “ our lieutenant 
and boatswain and a woman ” should be transferred to 
another ship, the “ Messenger,” and on the following 
day “ they went for Chatham in order for a tryall.” So 
there was a woman in the case ! Fisher, in his evidence 
before the court-martial, might not be anxious to recall 
this aspect of the dispute ; but it is extraordinary that 
the other side did not do so. Hughes, who kept the log, 
was actually a witness for Dampier. In fact, Dampier’s 
defence seems to have been grossly mismanaged. 

To return to Fisher’s version, on November 12th he 
“ moved the Captain to punish James Grigson, still 
finding him a refractory and dangerous fellow ” ; and 
Dampier reluctantly agreed that Grigson should be 
“ made fast to the gangway.” After an hour of this, 
he was, in Fisher’s words, “ set loose without any punish- 
ment,” whereupon Fisher complained to Dampier that 
this was “ an ill example.” We can understand that 
about this time the easy-going Captain felt his affection 
for his lieutenant sensibly cooling. To have done with 
this particular grievance of Fisher’s, on December 6 th 
he went on board the flagship, and after telling his 
troubles to a group of officers, actually appealed to the 
crew for volunteers to replace Grigson and Knight. 
Dampier, of course, refused to accept them. The 
wonder is that he did not immediately turn Fisher out 
of his ship, and it would have been better for his reputa- 

^ The Master’s Log of the “ Roebucic ” is in the Public Record Office. 



tion (having already missed the great opportunity of his 
lifetime through these delays) if he had done so, and had 
waited for a new lieutenant. 

However, such delays as these, vexatious as they were, 
could not continue for ever. Very early on the morning 
of Saturday, January 14th, the “ Roebuck ” sailed from 
the Downs with a fair wind, loaded with her twenty- 
months’ provisions. At noon they were off Dungeness. 
Next morning they found themselves, with a number of 
other English ships, “ nearer to the French coast than 
we expected.” The master, Hughes, was “ somewhat 
troubled at this discovery ” ; but Dampier explains that 
it was a very common mistake in those days, and “ fatal 
to many ships.” The occasion of it, he says, “ is not 
allowing for the change of the Variations since the making 
of the Charts, which Captain Hally ^ has observed to be 
very considerable.” Dampier was familiar with Halley’s 
work, and explained the situation to Hughes. On the 
19th they sighted Cape Finisterre, and on the 28th 
“ Lancerota ” (Lanzerote) of the Canary Islands. 

On that day there was more trouble with Fisher. His 
own account is that he was “ walking on the Deck with 
the Captaine and the Captaine’s Clerk ” when “ 3 Drops 
of Blood fell from his Nose on his hand.” He immedi- 
ately fainted ! Being taken to his cabin and bled, he 
felt a bit better, and in the middle of the night summoned 
the chief mate, and asked him about the vessel’s course. 
To his horror he discovered that they were heading 
straight for the island of “ Algoranca ” (Alegranze), and 
that the Captain was apparently unaware of the fact, 
since no look-out was being kept. He instantly advised 
that they should shorten sail. Dampier’s own account 
mentions simply that they sighted Alegranze, as expected, 
and that he took “ sights ” of the island at two different 

^ E. Halley (1656-1742), astronomer, discoverer of Halley’s Comet, 
author of the General Chart of the Variations. 


bearings and distances. He had, of course, already 
forgotten more about navigation than Fisher would ever 
know. At the court-martial he added one other incident 
of this day — namely that the Lieutenant had insisted 
on going to sleep with all his bedding in the pinnace, 
which “ lay on the boomes,” and that when Dampier 
spoke to him about it, reminding him that it was against 
orders, he “ bent his fist and held it to his nose and said 
he did not care a for him.” 

On January 30th they put into Santa Cruz, TenerifFe, 
“ to take in some wine and brandy for my voyage,” 
says Dampier. The Captain went ashore, and saw the 
Spanish Governor, and was invited to dine with him 
next day. On the following morning he started out, 
accompanied by the doctor and the purser (but not the 
lieutenant), on a typical tourist trip to Laguna, the 
principal town, which was some miles inland, so that 
there was only just time to get back for the Governor’s 
dinner-party. It was a hot and dusty journey, and 
longer than they expected. But there were “ publick 
houses scattering by the way-side, where we got some 
wine,” and perhaps that kept them back. At any rate, 
their thirst was unquenched, for when they reached 
Laguna they were “ glad to refresh themselves with a 
little wine in a soriy Tipling-house.” In the course of 
some characteristic notes upon the island’s resources, 
Dampier remarks that “ the true Malpisey Wine grows 
on this island ; and this here is said to be the best of 
its kind in the World.” There is “ also Canary Wine, 
and Verdona, or Green-wine.” As I have said, they 
were due to dine with the Governor of Santa Cruz ; 
” but staying so long at Laguna I came but time enough 
to sup with him.” However he was “ a civil discreet 
man,” and perhaps he did not ask too many questions 
about the cause of their delay. The Governor visited 
the “ Roebuck ” next morning in return ; “ but he was 



presently sea-sick, and so much out of order that he 
could scarce eat or drink anything, but went quickly 
ashore again.” 

There were other English ships in harbour besides 
the “ Roebuck,” and the commander of one of these. 
Captain Travers, of the “ Experiment ” galley, came to 
visit Dampier on the day the “ Roebuck ” arrived. His 
visit was the occasion of yet another scene with Fisher. 
Travers asked for beer — apparently it was the first word 
he uttered as he stepped on board — and Dampier told 
Fisher to see about it. But the purser (who was respon- 
sible for the beer) happened to meet the man who was 
going to break in the butt, and understanding that it 
was % Fisher’s orders “ threatened to break his head ” 
instead. Again Fisher complained to his Captain, and 
again in the presence of the other Captain, who tact- 
lessly “ seconded him,” and according to his account 
said to Dampier, “ If you suffer your Lieutenant to be 
thus used it may be of ill consequence in your voyage.” 
Again Dampier does nothing. Next day, however, he 
heard that Fisher had been thrashing a midshipman 
named Barnaby (a youth he had already been accused 
of bullying), and indignantly rebuked him. As Fisher 
left his captain, he swears that Dampier’s clerk, his 
special enemy, “ whispered Fisher to cane Barnaby, 
which if he had done, Fisher perceiving their intent was 
to draw and run him through in the scuffle ” — a singu- 
larly unconvincing story of a murder plot. But Fisher 
now believed his life to be in danger. He told the 
court-martial that, before leaving Santa Cruz, Dampier 
took on board a Spanish assassin, whom he had hired 
for the express purpose of murdering his subordinate, 
but set him ashore again when he saw that Fisher’s 
suspicions were aroused. It is astonishing to think of 
Sir Clowdisley Shovell and the other members of the 
Court listening gravely to stuff like this. 


From Santa Cruz they set a course for the island of 
Mayo, of the Cape Verde group, which Dampier knew 
of old, getting into harbour there on February iith. 
Here Dampier laid his plans for the remainder of the 
voyage. Before attempting to round the Cape, he 
“ thought it requisite to touch once more at a cultivated 
place in these seas, where my men might be refreshed.” 
He had no hardy crew of buccaneers with him, as on 
the occasion of his last visit to the island of Mayo. 
With these new men, he aimed at “ inuring them 
gradually and by intervals to the fatigues that were to 
be expected in the remainder of the voyage, which was 
to be in a part of the world they were altogether strangers 
to.” He decided upon Pernambuco in Brazil as a suit- 
able port of call, and left St. lago, in the Cape Verde 
Islands, for that destination on February 22nd. Fisher 
alleges that in getting to St. lago from Mayo the Captain 
completely lost his way, and that he (Fisher), “ Hearing 
the men cry out Land ! ” rushed on deck and asked 
Dampier what he meant to do. ‘‘ He answered (as if 
crying) he did not know what the master designed.” 
Whereupon Fisher, knowing the master to be drunk at 
the moment, took charge of the helm, and with great 
address managed to save the ship ! The Master’s Log, 
however, makes it a perfectly normal landfall. 

They ha'd now a month’s voyage ahead of them to 
the coast of Brazil, and it was not to be a pleasant one. 
The “ atmosphere ” on board grew worse and worse. 
Dampier says that “ the ignorance and obstinacy of some 
under me,” who would never trust his ability as a pilot, 
“ occasioned me a great deal of trouble.” They all 
thought “ we should never be able to weather Cape St. 
Augustin,” and became discontented and surly, though 
Dampier assured them that the “ calms and shiftings of 
wind ” which were the cause of their fear were but to 
be expected in crossing the Line. His assurances that 



all was well were doubted. “ They would not believe it 
till they found it so.” 

Meantime Fisher describes a little scene among the 
officers in the cabin, which seems hardly to have been 
worth the attention of a court-martial, but undoubtedly 
gives the modern reader a delightfully intimate picture 
of their lives — a glimpse right into the heart of the 
period. One afternoon as the ship slips gently south- 
ward, Fisher gets a message from the Captain, asking 
him civilly whether he would like to “ clubb for a bowl 
of punch.” He agrees, and they assemble in the cabin 
round the flowing bowl. Tongues are loosened. The 
Captain is no drunkard, but after all he has sailed with 
the buccaneers ; and presently, amid the general chatter, 
he is heard saying something to the effect that “ had he 
commanded one of the King’s ships in the late Warr, 
all French men he took in Privateers he would have 
tyed back to back and thrown overboard, adding all the 
King’s Captaines were fools they did not do it.” 

Fisher professes to have been horrified. To the 
Captain’s face he said it was “ a very cruell thought,” 
and even the doctor (Scotch dog though he was) declared 
it to be “ barbarously intended.” But Dampier retorted 
that “ it would have made a quick end or the war.” ^ 
Fisher then introduced the somewhat delicate topic of 
pirates, beginning to say that “ if all nations would give 
no protection to Pirates, but hang them as soon as 
taken, it would be of good service.” The Captain cut 
in with a demand to know “ what he meant by Pirates ? ” 
to which the lieutenant answered cautiously, “ Such as 
Everye (Avery) ^ and his men.” Whereupon Dampier, 
no doubt a little elevated by the punch, “ swore if he 

^ There is something ver7 modem about this discussion after all. 

® The celebrated freebooter, known as the “ Grand Pirate,” whose 
exploits in Madagascar are introduced hy Defoe into the story of Captain 


meet with any of them he would not hurt them, not a 
hair of their heads.” If he could have seen Fisher 
copying it all down in his note-book a few moments 
later, he might have been less free with his talk. The 
note-book must have been getting almost full by now, 
for Fisher records many more disputes — quarrels between 
himself and the purser, and so forth. 

“ It was the tenth day of March, about the time of 
the Equinox, when we crossed the Equator,” says 
Dampier. He gives his usual full notes of the winds, 
and of “ a great swell out of the S.E.,” and of “ small 
uncertain gales ” with rain ; and remarks that he was 
troubled by the carelessness of his men in lying down 
in their hammocks in their wet clothes. On such occa- 
sions he would give them a dram of brandy, and order 
them to change their clothes. They always took the 
brandy, but they seldom or never changed. Apart from 
this there was a “ refractoriness of some under me ” 
and “ discontents and backwardness of some of my 
men ” which in the end led him to drop the idea of 
Pernambuco, and make for Bahia de Todos os Santos 
instead. For at Pernambuco ships had to anchor two 
or three leagues from the shore, whereas at Bahia the 
civil authorities were near at hand to help him in the 
event of mutiny. 

Mutiny was now a real possibility ; the Fisher comedy 
had passed from the stage of farce to that of melodrama. 
Once again the casus belli was a barrel of beer. On the 
very day that they crossed the Equator, the cook came 
to Fisher and complained that “ it was three in the 
afternoon and they had no beer.” Thereupon Fisher, 
on his own responsibility, ordered the cooper to broach 
a new cask, without informing either captain or purser. 
Dampier summoned Fisher and the cooper to the quarter- 
deck. He fairly lost his temper. According to Fisher, 
he first thrashed the cooper, and then fell upon the 



lieutenant with his cane, and “ caned him to the fore- 
castle and confined him to the cabin.” According to 
Dampier, Fisher, when spoken to, “ called the Captain 
names softly, and urged the Captain to strike him, then 
he loudly called him a great many ill names, as old 
Rogue, old Dog, old Cheat, and endeavoured to stir up 
the seamen to a mutiny, by telling them that the Captain 
knew not whither he was going, that he was no artist, 
that he knew nothing, but was a mere theaf, and when 
he would not be silent was at last confined to his cabin.” 
From his cabin, Fisher continued to shout abuse, bawling 
out that he knew the Captain intended to run away 
wiA the ship and “ turn pirate ” — ^until they put him 
in irons. 

The situation was a grave one. They were a fortnight 
out from St. lago, and could not expect to sight their 
Brazilian port for another two weeks. Dampier’s 
officers, “ such as I could trust,” advised him to sleep 
on the quarter-deck for safety ; and on the 1 8th he had 
all the small arms brought up there and the gun-room 
door locked. He also ordered the arrest of three men 
suspected of being ringleaders in the trouble. One of 
them gave evidence implicating Fisher, but not to any 
serious extent, and Dampier’s next move in the matter 
must be put down less to any immediate fear of mutiny 
than to a determination to get Fisher off the ship at all 
costs. On the 23rd they sighted Brazil, and coasted 
southwards to Bahia de Todos os Santos, which they 
reached at midnight of the 24th. A Portuguese vessel 
piloted them in, and when they anchored, although it 
^s so late, the Portuguese skipper came on board the 
Roebuck to welcome them. ** Indeed,” says Dampier 
(who seems to have modified his old opinion ^ of the 
Portuguese), “ I found much respect, not only from this 
gentleman, but from all of that nation, both here and 
^ Which he had formed in the East, 


in other places, who were ready to serve me on all 

On the following day, Dampier got in touch with the 
Portuguese Governor, and on the 28th he sent Fisher 
ashore. He says that Fisher himself clamoured for 
this to be done, desiring to return to England via 
Portugal. Fisher says that he was amazed at it ; further, 
that he was sent ashore in irons like a malefactor, and 
thrown into the common jail among a lot of “ negroes 
and mulattos,” and that Dampier, in spite of his urgent 
messages, did nothing to get his condition improved 
before the ship sailed.^ Here we say good-bye to this 
troublesome person — for the moment. His Captain’s 
treatment of him at Bahia was the one really serious 
charge put forward at the court-martial — and the only 
one that seems to have the ring of truth. 

In the meantime Dampier was calmly using his 
month’s stay at the Portuguese port to write a wonder- 
fully full account of the place and of the surrounding 
country. He enumerates the principal public buildings 
in the town, describes the domestic architecture, the 
strength of the garrison and the shipping in the harljour. 
There were thirty “ great ships ” from different parts 
of Europe, but the “ Roebuck ” was the first English 
ship for eleven or twelve years. He gives us some street 
scenes. The wealthy merchants (one of them was an 
Englishman, Mr. Cock) were carried about in hammocks, 
slung on stout bamboo which negro slaves bore upon 
their shoulders. There were so many slaves that 
Dampier says “ they make up the greater part or bulk 
of the inhabitants.” They “ will easily be engaged to 
do any sort of mischief,” and rather specialized in 
murdering sailors, so that Dampier was very chary in 

^ He was kept in jail at Bahia till July 4th and was then sent to Lisbon 
on a Portuguese ship. At Lisbon the authorities released him and he 
crossed to England in December 1699, 



giving his men shore leave. He describes the cotton- 
fields and other forms of agriculture, and then comes to 
a list of animals and birds — a favourite subject of his — 
illustrating his remarks with some delightfully life-like 
drawings. There is a particularly spirited description 
of the great snakes, especially of the anaconda, which 
lives in pools and “ flourishes its tail ” out of the water 
to lasso passers-by. Dampier met an Irishman in 
Bahia who told him that his father had been caught in 
this way, and dragged head first into the pool to be 
swallowed by the monster. 

Dampier also used the opportunity of his month’s stay 
in Bahia “ to allay in some measure the ferment that 
had been raised among my men.” He found their heads 
still “ filled with strange notions of Southerly winds that 
were now setting in (and there had been already some 
flurries of them) which, as they surmised, would hinder 
any further attempts of going on to the southward . . . 
though I told them they were to look for them.” Some 
of the officers were just as bad, and “ very listless to the 
getting things in a readiness for our departure.” 

But at last it was done. The beer barrels — cause of 
so many disputes, but now void of beer — ^were sent 
ashore and filled with water. Oranges, rum and sugar 
were taken on board, and on the 23 rd April the “ Roe- 
buck ” weighed anchor and put to sea. The weather 
was fair, in spite of those occasional “ flurries ” from 
the South. In a few weeks they began to meet westerly 
winds, “ which did not leave us till a little before we 
made the Cape ” — ^yet without apparently convincing 
the malcontents that their Captain knew what he was 
about. Dampier could never be quite certain of his 
position on this voyage, for he “ had not a good glass 
in the ship, beside the half-watch or two-hour glasses.” 
The “ half-minute glasses,” used at the heaving of the 
log, were equally unreliable. As Dampier remarks — 


mildly enough in the circumstances — “ a ship ought to 
have its glasses very exact.” Especially, he might have 
added, when it has been fitted out by the Admiralty for 
an important voyage of exploration in uncharted seas ! 
But in those days sailors were accustomed to seek their 
bunks at night with so little idea of where they would 
find themselves in the morning that to us the marvel is 
that there were not even more wrecks than actually 

Dampier says that “ another thing that stumbled me 
there was the Variation.” This is one of his favourite 
topics, and the occasion of some of his best and most 
helpful work as a writer on navigation. He found the 
variation at the Cape more than it was thirty leagues 
east of it, whereas it should have been less. “ These 
things, I confess, did puzzle me ” — indeed were “ most 
shocking to me.” “ Neither was I fully satisfied as to 
the exactness of the taking of the Variation at Sea : for 
in a great sea, which we often met with, the compass 
will traverse with the motion of the ship ; besides the 
Ship may and will deviate somewhat in steering, even 
by the best helmsmen.” To make the nature of his 
troubles clearer, he appends an elaborate table of varia- 
tions, with dates — observing modestly that he considers 
himself incompetent to advance theories of his own, and 
therefore merely states the facts, for Halley and others 
to make use of. 

They sighted the Cape, and left it below the horizon 
on June 6th. On that evening the Captain stood on 
his quarter-deck admiring the sunset. “ As the Sun 
drew near the horizon, the clouds were gilded very 
prettily to the eye, though at the same time my mind 
dreaded the consequences of it.” At midnight they had 
“ a pale whitish glare in the N.W.” — another bad sign — 
and at 2 a.m. it was blowing a gale. But the “ Roe- 
buck,” though a crazy craft, “ steered incomparably 



well,” and on the 19th the gale abated. On the 25th 
they saw a large number of fish and birds, which made 
them think they must be near land, and on the 30th 
more of them, so that at midnight they sounded, and 
“ had forty-five fathoms, coarse sand and small white 
shells.” Next day they saw Australia, and coasted 
along it, looking for a nice sheltered bay.^ On August 
6th, in the morning, Dampier spotted a promising 
opening in the land, and nosed his way in, the ship’s 
boat going ahead with the lead, and sounding. Dampier 
called the mouth of this great sound (for such it turned 
out to be) “ Shark’s Bay,” on account of the number of 
sharks they saw in the water. It has retained the name 
to this day — and I understand that the bathing is still 
regarded as dangerous ! 

He appears to have anchored in the bay now named 
after him, to the north-east of the Peron Peninsula. He 
went ashore with some of his men, “ with pickaxes and 
shovels,” to dig for water, but found none. This was 
a vexation, for their barrels were nearly empty. Other- 
wise the appearance of the land was attractive, with 
many fragrant trees and shrubs, and “ some very small 
flowers growing on the ground that were sweet and 
beautiful, and for the most part unlike any I had seen 
elsewhere.” Among the animals he noted “ a sort of 
raccoons, different from those of the West Indies, chiefly 
as to their legs, for these have very short fore-legs, but 
go jumping upon them as the others do (and like them 
are very good meat).” This has been taken as an early 
description of the kangaroo, but as Mr. Masefield 
suggests, it is more likely to refer to the kangaroo-rat, 
which is fairly common in those parts. The shore was 
lined thick with “ very strange and beautiful shells,” of 
which Dampier immediately made a collection, but subse- 

^ Hughes, the master, could perceire “ neither trees nor bushes ” on 
the land, which “ promises very barren.” 


quently lost it. They caught turtle ; and sharks, too, 
which “ our men eat very savourily.” In one shark’s 
stomach they found the head of a hippopotamus — and 
that too they ate ! On August nth they ventured 
farther into the bay, narrowly avoiding many shoals, 
and still without any luck in the matter of fresh 

Two days later Dampier gave it up. Leaving Shark’s 
Bay, he began to feel his way northward along the 
coast. Had he turned south at this point, two or three 
days’ sail would have brought him to the site of the 
modern Port Gregory, and another two days to Perth 
and Fremantle. It is a tantalizing reflection ; but we 
have to remember that his instructions were to go north. 
He doubted, too, whether his “ heartless ” men would 
have been able to stand the “ winter weather ” which 
they must have met with in the south ; and he, for his 
own part, confesses that he “ was not for spending my 
time more than was necessary in the higher latitudes, 
as knowing that the land there could not be so well 
worth the discovering as the parts that lay nearer the 
Line and more directly under the Sun.” Here is the 
“ warm voyage ” complex again. That early trip to 
Newfoundland had a lot to answer for. 

On the 21st they found themselves among a group of 
islands which must have been those now called the 
Dampier Archipelago. Our navigator here hazards the 
guess that “ from what he saw of the tides ” there might 
be a passage hereabouts right through New Holland to 
the South Seas, and adds that he thought seriously of 
attempting it after his return from New Guinea, whither 
he was now bound, according to plan. He was only 
drawing a bow at a venture, of course ; but this theory 
of Australian geography had its supporters in Europe 
for many years afterwards. At the moment it was not 
practical politics to pursue the matter. There was an 



instant and urgent need of water. The sun blazed down 
upon them ; “ the rocks looked of a rusty yellow colour 
and I despaired of getting water on any of them.” 
Again he went personally on shore with the shovel and 
pick party. No good ! On the 23 rd he left the islands, 
still with “ fair clear weather,” and continued his search 
along the mainland. Hughes notes “ an abundance of 
small flies which annoyed our people very much in 
tickling their faces and buzzing about their ears.” 

A week later, while ten or eleven men were on shore, 
digging for water under the supervision of their com- 
mander, groups of blacks appeared, and began to make 
hostile demonstrations. At last Dampier took two men 
with him, and, leaving the rest digging (with their 
weapons close at hand), walked casually along the beach. 
His idea was to lure the blacks to follow him, so that he 
might seize one of them, and endeavour through him 
to establish friendly relations and get some information 
about water. Nothing, in fact, could be more eloquent 
of the courage of English seamen of those days and of 
the contempt in which they held the “ native.” Dampier ’s 
device succeeded. The farther he got from the rest of 
his men, the more the aborigines crowded upon him, 
and the more truculent became their demeanour. When 
they were quite close, Dampier and his two companions 
suddenly dashed at them. He observes “ We could 
easily outrun them ” : I rather wonder if that would be 
true to-day. 

The blacks fled. But as Dampier was just about to 
grasp his quarry, he glanced over his shoulder, and saw 
that a number of the fugitives had turned at bay, and 
were fiercely assailing one of his companions with their 
“ wooden lances.” The young sailor, who was thus 
attacked, defended himself with his cutlass, but the 
blacks were all round him. Dampier, coming up, began 
firing his musket over their heads to frighten them. It 


did, at first, but seeing that no harm was done, they 
“ soon learnt to despise it, tossing up their hands and 
crying ‘ Pooh ! Pooh ! Pooh ! ’ ” To save his fol- 
lower, who was wounded in the face by a lance, Dampier 
then shot one of them down ; whereupon the rest drew 
off, and the Englishmen retired to their main body, 
Dampier very gloomy, and “ sorry for what had hap- 
pened.” He observes once again that the Australian 
aborigines “ have the most unpleasant looks and the 
worst features of any people that ever I saw, though I 
have seen great variety of savages.” In fact, he finds 
them “ the same blinking creatures ” described in 
Chapter VII. 

So the unfruitful search went on. They found “ a 
little brackish water ” — no more. They also met the 
dingo — “ 2 or 3 beasts like hungry wolves, lean like so 
many skeletons, being nothing but Skin and Bone.” It 
was now the beginning of September, and the men were 
“ growing scorbutic ” for lack of water and fresh food. 
They were in the modern slang term “ fed up ” with 
Australia. “ If it were not,” says Dampier, “ for that 
sort of pleasure which results from the Discovery even 
of the barrenest spot upon the Globe, this coast of New 
Holland would not have charmed me much.” It is 
clear that he fully intended to come back and have 
another shot at it ; he explains that he “ thought to 
come round by the south of Terra Australis in my return 
back which would be in the Summer season there,” 
But in the meantime he could not see his men die of 
thirst. He therefore drew off from the land, and set 
his course for the island of Timor. And so he bade 
farewell to Australia. 

The curious thing is that, though there was every 
practical reason for his decision, he seems to have been 
dimly aware that he was making a mistake. He hung 
about the coast as though reluctant to leave. He 



writes : “ This large and hitherto almost unknown tract 
of land is situated so very advantageously in the richest 
climates of the world . . . that in. coasting round it, 
which I designed by this voyage if -possible, I could not 
but hope to meet with some fruitful lands, Continent or 
Island, or both.” Alas, though he did not know it, it 
was now too late. But this much, at least, may be said, 
that he had already left his mark upon the map. Nothing 
more was discovered of the western and north-western 
coasts of Australia until a hundred years after Dampier’s 

I do not propose to describe the rest of his voyage in 
detail. There is no controversy about it ; we have no 
record but his own, and the Master’s Log. He steered 
for the island of Timor, on his way to New Guinea, 
where he expected to make some important discoveries — 
and he was not disappointed. After a rather doubtful 
reception from the Dutch authorities at Fort Concordia 
on Timor ^ (they had recently sulFered at the hands of a 
French privateer, and mistook the “ Roebuck ” for one 
of the same kidney), he “jogged on ” from island to 
island, taking in fresh food and water, which soon 
restored his men to health. Returning to Timor, he 
repaired his ship’s sides, which, owing to the “ ignor- 
ance and waste ” of his carpenter were in a deplorable 
state for want of pitch. On the 4th and 5th of November, 
they fired a number of guns “ in honour of King William 
and in memory of the Deliverance from the Powder 
Plot ” — ^which so much alarmed the Dutch in Fort Con- 
cordia that they sent to find out what it was all about. 
Everything was explained, and Anglo-Dutch relations 
now became pleasanter. Dampier even dined with the 
Governor. But he knew that the Dutch in their hearts 
were “ enemies to all Europeans but such as are under 

^ The date of the arrival at Timor (September 22nd) is given only in 
the Master’s Log, which is very usefnl about here. 


their own Government,” and he was glad to get away 
north again towards New Guinea. 

On January ist, 1700, the southern coast of New 
Guinea came in sight — z “ pleasant prospect ” with “ tall 
flourishing trees ” and “ very green.” They began to 
coast round the island towards the west, with the inten- 
tion of investigating its northern shores. Dampier was 
particularly anxious to get in touch with the natives ; 
but though two large canoes came off, and there was 
much futile shouting and making of signs between the 
two parties, neither could make the other understand, 
and the natives presently returned to the beach. Dampier 
himself followed them in a boat, and though he could 
see hundreds of them “ lying in ambush behind the 
bushes,” he approached close enough to throw some 
” knives and other toys ” ashore. This did the trick. 
The natives emerged from their hiding-places, casting 
aside their weapons, and soon the deck of the “ Roebuck ” 
was like a market-place, “ roots and fruits ” being 
bartered for “ toys ” and brandy. Rounding the north- 
western end of New Guinea, Dampier picked out one 
of the most attractive looking islands of the Waiang 
group, and went ashore there, and named it after King 
William, solemnly drinking his Majesty’s health. 

He then turned east along the northern coast of New 
Guinea, naming Little Providence and other islands — 
in fact the map is very largely his about here. The 
natives were more “ difficult ” than ever. At one place 
they began to stone the ship, using powerful slings for 
the purpose, so that Dampier, generally so patient with 
them, was provoked into firing a shot which wounded 
several. At Antony Caen’s island, “ the bays were 
covered with men going along as we sailed.” Many 
tried to swim off to the ship, but were left astern. 
Others followed in dug-outs. Yet only three were brave 
enough to come on board ! Hughes describes the 




natives as “lusty, raw-boned men,” with their bodies 
painted in “ several colours ” ; but “ the chiefest thing 
I admired was their having large holes through their 
noses, having through them crabs’ claws, white shells 
and painted shells, which made them look very gashly.” 

Steering over to the mainland again, Dampier at first 
supposed himself to be still off the coast of New Guinea, 
as all the maps of those days indicated. In reality he 
had discovered the large island of New Britain. He 
describes St. George’s Channel, which divides New 
Britain in two, as a “ bay ” ; but it has kept the name of 
St. George, which he gave it, ever since. The natives 
continued shy. They would accept the hatchets and 
looking-glasses offered to them by the Englishmen, and 
then fail to return with the cocoanuts or pork which 
were to be given in exchange. When the English 
approached their villages they fled to the jungle, so 
Dampier coolly appropriated a number of their fishing 
nets as a “ recompense ” for his “ toys.” Then he very 
foolishly allowed some of his men to go ashore without 
him, and of course there was a row, and several natives 
injured, and “ images ” (gods) stolen from their shrines, 
and a dozen or more fine fat pigs brought on board. 
Dampier, still anxious to be friends, immediately sent a 
canoe to the beach with six knives, six looking-glasses, a 
bunch of beads and four glass bottles, which his men 
spread out “ to the best advantage,” and then came 
away. He meant it well, but how shall a man be repaid 
for the loss of his gods ! 

The “ Roebuck ” was now approaching Dampier 
Strait, which divides New Britain from New Guinea. 
Its discovery was the most important achievement of the 
voyage. Dampier soon realized this, and was vexed 
that a sudden indisposition kept him so much to his 
cabin. However, he was able to look around him, and 
to name the great island to the north Nova Britannia 


(New Britain), and another smaller one after Sir George 
Rook, who was one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and 
had served with him nearly thirty years before as a 
lieutenant on the “ Royal Prince ” in the Dutch War. 

One night as he lay in his cabin, the chief mate roused 
him to come on deck and see a “ burning hill ” on an 
island near at hand.^ “ All night,” says Dampier, “ it 
vomited Fire and Smoke very amazingly, and at every 
Belch we heard a dreadful noise like Thunder, and saw 
a Flame of Fire, the most terrifying that ever I saw . . . 
and then might be seen a great Stream of Fire, running 
down to the foot of the island, even to the shore.” Ill 
as he was, he had not lost his gift of description. 

The morale of the “ Roebuck’s ” crew was now better 
than it had ever been, and as far as his men were con- 
cerned, Dampier might have sailed on to the S.E. until he 
came to those farther shores of Australia, which to-day 
are crowded with flourishing cities and attracting their 
thousands of immigrants from Europe every year. But 
the poor old “ Roebuck ” herself was in such a con- 
dition that, if he had done so, he would never have 
lived to tell the tale. It was necessary to get back to 
some port where her leaking sides could be repaired. 
He returned, therefore, by the way he had come, all 
round the coast of New Guinea, and set his course across 
the Banda Sea. It was an uneventful voyage. Off 
Ceram Island, they spoke a Dutch sloop, on board of 
which there was a Malayan merchant, who told them 
that about six months previously the Governor of Ben- 
coolen (Dampier’s old enemy) had “ either died or was 
killed,” and that an English skipper of one of the 
ships then in harbour had succeeded to his post. They 

^ Mr. Masefield suggests that it may have been the small volcano on 
Ritter Island in Dampier Strait, which is stiU active. Hughes gives its 
position, but he is not sufficiently accurate in these matters to enable us 
to say with certainty which island he means. 



put into port at Batavia, and lay there till the i yth October, 
1 700, refitting for the long voyage home. 

That voyage was like a nightmare. The ship coxild 
hardly be kept afloat. Dampier even forgets to give us 
his usual description of the places visited — an eloquent 
testimony to his state of mind. They were at the Cape 
on the 30th December, at St. Helena on the 2nd February, 
and on the 22nd February were off the island of Ascen- 
sion, where “ we sprung a leak which increased so that 
the chain pump could not keep the ship free.” With 
the help or the hand pump, however, they managed to 
get into harbour where they could look for the leak. 
Dampier blames the carpenter’s mate, whose efforts only 
seemed to make matters worse. All hands were called 
to the pumps, and, heartened with “ some drams to 
comfort them,” they worked magnificently. But the 
water still increased. They had to give it up. They 
warped in close to the land, and made a raft “ to carry 
the men’s chests and bedding ashore.” They also landed 
some bags of rice and water ; but Dampier complains 
that many of his books and papers were lost. 

He says little of the sinking of the “ Roebuck,” but 
it must have been a dismal sight for them as they sat on 
this bleak, uninhabited island, watching the old ship 
settle down to her undignified grave in three fathoms of 
water. Did Dampier’s dreams sink with her — ^with this 
first important command of his ? I think not. He 
does not give the impression of having cared about 
command for its own sake — but only for the greater 
mobility it gave him as an explorer. In his heart he 
probably cursed the “ Roebuck,” as he watched her 
sink, because she had not carried him further. But 
there is no word in his diary to suggest that he felt 
himself in any way to blame for what had happened. 
He was not disillusioned, only angry — and rather 
hungry — ^like his crew. 



However, they found turtles to eat, which many a 
stay-at-home Englishman might envy them — ^and places 
in the hollow rocks where they could shelter from the 
weather. And on the 3rd April, after five weeks of 
this Robinson Crusoe existence, four ships came into 
harbour, and took them off. These were three men of 
war, the “ Anglesey,” the “ Hastings ” and the “ Lizard,” 
and one East Indiaman, the “ Canterbury.” Dampier 
at first went on board the “ Anglesey,” with most of 
his men ; but on the 8th May the King’s ships bore 
away for Barbadoes, “ and I being desirous to get to 
England as soon as possible took my passage in the 
ship ‘ Canterbury,’ accompanied with my Master, 
Purser, Gunner and three of my superior officers.” He 
probably had some inkling that trouble was brewing 
at home. 



lERE is no incident in Dampier’s 
career that throws a more vivid light 
upon his character, and upon the whole 
manner of life on shipboard in those 
times, than the court-martial which 
followed upon his return to England 
after the loss of the “ Roebuck.” And 
the fact that his principal biographer, 
Rear-Admiral Smyth, moved by some strange obstinacy, 
denied that any such court-martial had ever taken place 
(whereas the minutes and all relevant documents are 
available at the Public Record Office), while that very 
readable short biography by Mr. Clark Russell in the 
” English Men of Action ” series simply ignores it, is 
one of the principal reasons why a new biography of 
Dampier was due to be written. 

Enemies had been busy in England for some time, 
while Dampier and his company were exploring the 
coasts of New Holland, straightening out the map of 
New Guinea, and being shipwrecked on Ascension 
Island. In those days they did not prepare public 
receptions for returning explorers who had lost their 
ships. They prepared courts-martial instead. And 
Lieutenant Fisher, who had been in England since 
December, 1699, had seen that the case for the 
prosecutionJiJwas well worked up. Dampier had, in 


fact, to face a whole series of inquiries. In regard to 
the first, which was simply the ordinary and inevitable 
investigation into the loss of one of the King’s ships, 
the “ Roebuck,” Fisher’s evidence, happily for Dampier, 
had no relevance, since he was not present at the time. 
The Court had before it the evidence of Dampier himself, 
of Hughes, the master, of the boatswain’s mate, of two 
of the seamen, and of the unfortunate carpenter’s mate 
(whom everyone blamed). Dampier mentions that he 
had no carpenter on board except this man, Penton ; 
and Hughes confirms Dampier’s account, quoted in the 
last chapter, adding that he heard the captain say that 
he “ never was in any ship where we cutt for leakes, but 
I am no carpenter, therefore desire you that vmderstand 
it to use your utmost endeavour to stop it.” It is 
obvious that this cutting away of timber to get at the 
leak accelerated the inrush of water. Penton in his 
evidence merely says that “ we sprung a grate leak,” 
and could not stop it. This inquiry was held on the 
29th September, 1701. No verdict is recorded, but the 
evidence is all one way, and we may safely presume that 
Dampier was honourably acquitted. 

But Lieutenant Fisher had not allowed the grass to 
grow under his feet. He must have written a dozen or 
more letters to the Lords of the Admiralty, beginning 
with his first petition while still a prisoner at Bahia, 
continuing from on board ship, from Lisbon, where he 
was first landed on his way home, and from different 
addresses in England, almost up to the date of the trial. 
Dampier, for his part, had taken the precaution, while 
in harbour at Bahia, of forwarding to the Admiralty six 
separate versions of his quarrel with Fisher, written by 
supporters of his — ^Hughes, Chadwick, Rumbold, John 
Knight, Paine the gunner and Watson the carpenter. 
He also put in a formal petition addressed to him at 
Bahia, over the signatures of the master, the gunner. 



the carpenter and the boatswain, expressing their “ unani- 
mous opinion ” that “ it is not safe or expedient to carry 
him (Fisher) on your designed voyage,” as he would 
certainly endeavour to stir up a mutiny. 

After his return to England, Fisher induced the widow 
of the boatswain, Norwood, who had died at Barbadoes, 
following the escape from Ascension Island, to petition 
the Admiralty, claiming that her husband’s death was 
due to the severity of his treatment by Dampier, who 
had kept him in confinement on board ship for a period 
of four months. It will be remarked that Fisher himself 
had been the first to quarrel with Norwood. On the 
evidence of the “ Roebuck’s ” surgeon, who said that 
the illness which eventually killed the boatswain had 
been present in his system long before his imprisonment, 
and moreover that he had been at liberty no less than 
ten months and in moderately good health before it 
reappeared and made an end of him, the Court acquitted 
Dampier on this charge. Dampier complained that he 
never heard of it until just before the court-martial 

Another old enemy of Fisher’s was the seaman 
Grigson ^ (or Gregson). This man deserted the “ Roe- 
buck ” at Bahia, after a quarrel with the purser, and, 
going to see Fisher in prison, the latter induced him to 
write a letter to the Admiralty, in which he pleaded that, 
though a deserter, he should have his wages paid to him 
on account of the behaviour of the captain and officers 
of the ” Roebuck.” According to him, the master was 
quite incompetent, and, more often than not, drunk ; 
while Dampier is represented as little better than an 
imbecile, who never knew within fifty leagues where 
they were, nor ventured to take charge of the ship in 
the master’s absence. When Grigson complained to 
him of the master, he “ seemed to tacke no notis of itt.” 

1 See page 159. Hughes calls him a “ midshipman.” 


Grigson adds : “I believe it was through ignorance, 
for I have known him some years and did always think 
I should find him to be a very ignorant man.” The 
court-martial ignored Grigson’s charges ; and the extra- 
ordinary thing is that Fisher, although he had got this 
letter out of him, and though they were comrades in 
distress at Bahia and came home together, pursued the 
man with implacable animosity, petitioning the Admiralty 
again and again to have him arrested, and trumping up 
new charges, as that he had offered to turn Roman 
Catholic at Bahia, and spoken “ traitorous and villainous 
words ” against King William III, and so forth. The 
Admiralty seems to have ignored these charges, too. 

After all, there was only one serious point in the whole 
case, and this must have been very clear in the minds 
of Sir Clowdisley Shovell, the President of the court- 
martial, Vice-Admiral Hopson and the rest, when they 
went on board H.M.S. “ Royall Souveraine ” at Spithead 
on June 8th, 1702. The point was this : was Dampier 
justified in his treatment of Fisher at Bahia ? Fisher 
may have been a poisonous fellow, it may have been 
true that no voyage of exploration could have succeeded 
with him on board ; but the question was whether he 
had done anything which justified his captain in thrusting 
a commissioned officer into a dirty Portuguese jail, and 
leaving him there (as it appeared) without any means 
of subsistence for himself and the two sailors with him, 
while the ship sailed away. Judged by the buccaneers* 
code, no doubt, Dampier had treated his lieutenant very 
lightly ; under Sawkins or Read, Fisher would have 
been left, not in a jail, but on the beach of the nearest 
desert island, to starve at his leisure. But this was one 
of the King’s ships. Fisher held the King’s commis- 
sion ; he was a gentleman, and had been an enthusiastic 
Whig volunteer ; and I cannot help thinking that the 
members of the court-martial were unconsciously influ- 


1 86 

enced in their decision by the difference in the records 
of the two men. Here is their verdict : 

“ The Court ... is of opinion that Captain William 
Dampier has been guilty of very Hard and Cruel Usage 
towards Lieutenant Fisher, in beating him aboard ye sd. 
ship, and confining him in Irons a considerable time, 
and afterwards imprisoning him on shore in a strange 
country, and itt is resolved that itt does not appear to 
the Court by ye evidence that there has been any grounds 
for this ill usage of him, and that the sd. Captain Dampier 
falls under ye 33rd Article for these his irregular pro- 
ceedings, and that the Court does adjudge that Hee be 
fined all his pay to the Chest at Chatham . . . and itt 
is farther the opinion of ye Court that the said Captain 
Dampier is not a fitt person to be employ’d as Commdr. 
of any of Her Majesty’s ships.” 

Well, there it is. Sir Clowdisley Shovell saw the wit- 
nesses ; I did not. But I have read the evidence care- 
fully, and can only say that Fisher must have been a 
very good witness indeed (which you would never suspect 
from the rambling, irresponsible, abusive tone of his 
letters) and Dampier a very bad one — ^which again you 
would not guess from the clear incisive style of his 
books. But, as I have said before, he was always a poor 
controversialist. One thing is certain, that the morale 
of the “ Roebuck’s ” crew improved from the moment 
Fisher left, and that Dampier’s important discoveries in 
Australia and New Guinea would never have been made 
if his enemy had remained on board. 

The verdict did Dampier no harm. Whether because 
there was some doubt in official circles as to the justice 
of the decision, or for some other reason which we do 
not know, he was reinstated in a new command with 
quite startling promptitude. Just ten months after Sir 


Clowdisley Shovell and the other officers had pronounced 
him unfit to command any of Her Majesty’s ships, we 
read in the London Gazette ^ that “ Captain William 
Dampier, being prepared to depart on another voyage to 
the West Indies, had the honour to kiss Her Majesty’s 
hand, being introduced by His Royal Highness, the 
Lord High Admiral.” ^ 

This almost looks like an official snub for the members 
of the court-martial. In one respect, however, the situa- 
tion had changed very much in Dampier’s favour. The 
War of the Spanish Succession had broken out, in which 
France and Spain were our enemies, and, in every port 
on the southern coast, English privateers were being 
fitted out to prey upon French and Spanish commerce. 
In these circumstances, the services of a man like 
Dampier could hardly be refused. The allegation of 
his enemies that he was incapable of navigating a ship 
can never have been taken seriously. The court-martial, 
as we have seen, ignored them. On the contrary, there 
was no officer afloat better acquainted with those seas 
in which the rich commerce of Spain lay open to attack. 
So that when the owners of the privateer, “ St. George,” 
of twenty-six guns and carrying a crew of 120 men, 
then lying in the Downs, wished to appoint Dampier 
as her commander, official approval was promptly 

It must have been a busy scene in the Downs, and we 
can well believe that many of Dampier’s old companions, 
many hard-bitten ex-buccaneers, were on the look-out 
for a job — and getting it without much difficulty too. 
Lying next to the St. George was another privateer, 
the “ Fame ” (Captain John Pulling), and it was intended 
that the two ships should sail in company to the West 
Indies. They were well supplied with “ warlike stores ” 

^ London Gazette, No. 3906. 

® Prince George of Denmark. 



and victualled for nine months, and “ had commissions 
from H.R.H. the Lord High Admiral to proceed in 
warlike manner against the French and Spaniards.” 
They also obtained an official “ protection ” against the 
naval press-gangs, then busy in all the ports.^ On board 
the “ St. George ” was a steward named William Funnell, 
to whom we are indebted for the only description of this 
voyage which we possess. 

Dampier, for some reason, had ceased to keep a 
journal. It is true he lost all his papers in the course 
of this voyage, but apparently there was no diary among 
them. His record of the “ Roebuck ” adventure was 
the last that he ever wrote. William Funnell is an 
amusing enough writer, and so far as his facts can be 
checked he seems to be fairly reliable, except where his 
captain is concerned. He disliked Dampier, and always 
tries to represent his conduct in the worst possible light. 
That is a disadvantage, of course ; but we have Dampier’s 
hurriedly written Vindication.^ which he produced after 
he had seen Funnell’s book, and a further Ans'voer to the 
Vindication, by one John Welbe, a midshipman, who takes 
Funnell’s side. Between the three of them, we get a 
fairly clear idea of the chief incidents of the voyage. 
But Dampier’s dramatic little touches, Dampier’s natural 
eloquence and his powers of observation are sadly 

The “ St. George ” left the Downs unaccompanied, 
after all. There had been a disagreement between the 
owners and those of the “ Fame,” and Pulling had gone 
off on his own account.® Funnell gives us a foretaste 
of his defects as an historian by alleging that Pulling’s 

* Acti of the frivy Council ; Colonial Series. 

® He went to Bermuda, and there (in August, 1703) caused a mild 
sensation by getting his ship blown up in harbour, owing to “ the care- 
lessness of one of the Purser’s servants,” who was “ drawing brandy in 
the Lazaretto ” with a lighted candle in his hand, and so started a fire. 


departure was the result of a personal quarrel with 
Dampier. As a matter of fact, Dampier was up in 
London at the time.i Funnell says that the plan was 
to proceed first to the River Plate, and seize “ two or 
three Spanish galleons,” and “ if by that expedition we 
go to the value of ,^600,000 ” — an incredible sum — 
“ then to return again without proceeding further.” 
They must have expected these galleons to be literally 
made of gold ! The truth seems to be that Dampier 
had a roving commission to do very much as he liked, 
and that nothing was definitely decided] upon.'s.*^ .They 
sailed on April 30th, 1703, and anchored off Kinsale 
on the 1 8 th May. Here they were joined by the 
“ Cinque Ports ” galley, a small ship of about 90 tons, 
carrying sixteen guns, and a crew of sixty-three men, 
commanded by Captain Charles Pickering. 

They sailed to Madeira, and thence to the Cape Verde 
Islands, sighting St. lago on October 7th. Funnell 
seems to have been unfortunate in his relations with the 
inhabitants, whose characteristics he describes with much 
bitterness. The natives here, he says, were formerly 
Portuguese, banished thither for “ murthers, thefts and 
other villainies.” They “ are now mostly black ” by 
intermarriage with women slaves, but “ though they 
have changed their colour, they have retained their vices.” 

^ Moreover, before his death, he showed himself a good friend of 
Pulling’s (or PuUein’s) hy procuring for his son, Heniy Pulling, the 
appointment of chief adviser to Lord Orford “ in settling the South Sea 
Company.” On April 30th, 1715 (a month after Dampier’s death), 
Thomas Pulling was petitioning the Privy Council, complaining that 
whereas the previous holder of this post had been fourteen years in 
office and “ procured himself a very good estate,” his son Henry, who 
had succeeded “ on the recommendation of Mr. Dampier, the famous 
voyager,” was to be superseded almost as soon as he had established 
himself “ at vast expense,” and long before he had had time to feather 
his nest in the approved eighteenth-century maimer. Acts of the Privy 
Council : Colonial Series (unbound papers). 



“ They will take your Hat off your Head at noonday, 
although you be in the midst of company.” 

Here broke out the first of those inevitable quarrels, 
which must, unfortunately, be recognized as a normal 
feature of life on ships commanded by Dampier — as 
indeed on most ships at this time.^ Once again the 
central figure was the lieutenant, this time an officer 
named Huxford. We may accept Dampier’s statement 
that Hiaxford and Morgan (who was purser and owner’s 
agent) went ashore and fought a duel, whereupon the 
local Portuguese Governor clapped Huxford under arrest. 
Later he came on board again, and then, according to 
Funnell and Welbe, Dampier thrust him on shore with 
his chest and clothes and servant, and sailed away, 
leaving him to perish miserably, “ partly from hunger.” 
Welbe tells how the unfortunate lieutenant begged not 
to be turned ashore “ among a parcel of banditties and 
negroes,” saying that “ he would be contented to lie in 
the longboat and go before the mast, rather than go 
ashore among a parcel of Heathen.” Dampier’s excuses 
are unconvincing. It is plain that in spite of his painful 
experience at the court-martial, he was unable to break 
himself of the buccaneer’s trick of marooning trouble- 
some men. 

On November and the “ St. George ” and the “ Cinque 
Ports ” crossed the Equator, and three weeks later 
anchored off Isla Grande, a small Brazilian island near 
the modern town of Rio de Janeiro. Funnell attempts 
to fix the position of this island, but his observations are 
hopelessly at fault. He also essays a few natural history 
notes, which are in amusing contrast with the careful 
records his captain had formerly kept. Of the boobies 
he writes : “ They are so silly that when they are weary 

^ It would be easy to multiply examples of ships of the period worse 
disciplined than Dampier’s ; but I do not want to excuse his chief failing 
by showing how common it was among lesser men. 



of flying they will, if you hold out your hand, come and 
sit upon it : from thence I conjecture that they are 
called boobies.” 

Here Captain Pickering, of the “ Cinque Ports,” died, 
and his lieutenant, Thomas Stradling, succeeded to the 
command. Here also there may have been a quarrel 
between Dampier and his new lieutenant, Hxrxford’s 
successor, which resulted in the latter’s going ashore, 
taking eight of the crew with him ; but we have only 
Funnell’s vague account of this incident, to which neither 
Dampier nor Welbe refers. I cannot help doubting 
whether it ever happened. They steered south for Cape 
Horn, and on the way one of the men died, and his 
things were put up for auction. The prices are inter- 
esting : “A chest value five shillings was sold for ;^3 ; 
a pair of shoes value four shillings and sixpence sold for 
31 shillings ; half a pound of thread value 2 shillings 
sold for 1 7 shillings and sixpence.” They rounded the 
Horn, and on February 7th sighted the island of Juan 
Fernandez (which Funnell pretends that Dampier was 
unable to recognize). Here they found the “ Cinque 
Ports ” already at anchor. 

The three weeks’ stay at this island was a happy time 
for William Funnell. He enjoyed himself among the 
“ sea-Lyons,” of which there were many on the island. 
The ordinary way of killing these unfortunate creatures 
was “ to clap a pistol just to his mouth as it stood open, 
and fire down his throat.” But “ if we had a mind to 
have some sport with him, which we call Lyon-baiting,” 
a party of sailors armed with half pikes would “ prick 
him to death, which commonly would be a sport for 
two or three hours before we should conquer him.” So 
with this “ sport ” on shore, and with the watering and 
refitting of their ships, they passed their time at Juan 
Fernandez. But Stradling, as though to show that 
Dampier was not the only “ cruel ” captain in those 



parts, had got into such trouble with his crew that no 
fewer than forty-two of them — that is, more than half — 
had gone ashore and refused to re-embark. Dampier, 
from the “ St. George,” succeeded in making up this 
quarrel. Funnell, who seldom has a good word for him, 
remarks that “ by the endeavours of Captain Dampier 
they were again reconciled.” 

On February 29 th, they sighted a French ship, and 
went in pursuit. She was a powerful vessel of thirty 
guns, and though the “ St. George ” and the “ Cinque 
Ports ” “ fought her very close broadside and broadside 
for seven hours,” they had made little impression upon 
her when “ a small gale ” sprang up and enabled her to 
sheer off. Dampier would not pursue, thinking it a safer 
game to wait for some fat Spanish galleon ; but in the 
meantime they had left most of their boats behind at 
Juan Fernandez, and this rather cramped their activities. 
Returning to the island to recover them, they saw two 
large French ships in harbour, and discreetly “ stood 
away for the coast of Peru.” Any reader who has 
followed me through the story of Dampier’s cruises in 
those waters with the buccaneers will appreciate that, 
without their boats, our privateers were like birds with 
broken wings. They could capture ships at sea, but 
they could do no “ cutting out,” and they could not 
land armed parties to seize the Spanish coast towns. Off 
Arica, for instance, which they visited next, and which 
Dampier knew of old, the best they could do was to 
hang about outside the harbour, hoping to catch some 
ship coming out. They chased two of these, but finding 
them to be Frenchmen (one was the same they had 
fought off Juan Fernandez) Dampier desisted, though 
Funnell says his crew were burning for a fight. He 
stood along the shore to the northward, and presently 
took a Spanish ship of 150 tons, out of which he removed 
“ a little of everything,” and then let her go, “ alleging 


that if he kept her it would be a hind ’ranee to his greater 
designs.” It seems a reasonable enough explanation, 
quite in line with the policy of the older “ privateers ” ; 
and Dampier adds that he did not, as a matter of fact, 
possess an officer who was capable of taking charge of a 
prize — they were “ pyrating fellows, rather than true 

Dampier now prepared an ambitious plan of campaign 
against Santa Maria, the scene of his earlier “ golden 
dreams,” it being “ the first place they send all their 
gold to, which they dig out of mines not far from Santa 
Maria.” On their way thither, they captured two small 
Spanish ships, the first of which they kept. On the 
second was a Guernsey man, who had been taken prisoner 
in the Bay of Campeachy, where he was cutting log- 
wood, and imprisoned in Mexico for two years. He 
was overjoyed at his rescue. They arrived at the mouth 
of the river at eight o’clock at night, “ having dark 
rainy weather, with much thunder and lightning, so that 
we were all very wet and had a most uncomfortable 
night, for we were forced to lie in all the rain, having no 
shelter in our little Bark.” From which it is clear that 
they made the expedition against Santa Maria in the 
Spanish prize they had just captured, leaving the “ St. 
Greorge ” and the “ Cinque Ports ” to cruise off the 
mouth of the river. At daylight an Indian canoe came 
near and hailed them, whereupon, says Funnell, “ our 
captain ordered them to be fired at, which was done 
accordingly.” It seems a particularly idiotic order for 
Dampier to have given, for of course the canoe immedi- 
ately paddled away to warn the people of Santa Maria. 
He himself says that he was “ very uneasy and troubled ” 
at this gun having been fired, contrary to his orders. 
One feels that he would have done better with this crew 
if he had brought that famous cane of his into action 
more often. 



Two launches were sent up the river at once, and the 
barque followed. It was still very dark, but the men 
in the launches heard dogs barking near the bank, and 
following this sound they landed, and captured the 
small town of Schuchadero, which they found deserted 
by its inhabitants. The barque, missing them in the 
darkness, went on up the river as far as Santa Maria, 
but discovered the mistake and returned. In an Indian 
canoe they found a packet of letters addressed by the 
Giovernor of Panama to the Governor of Santa Maria, 
warning him of an impending attack by 250 “ English 
from Jamaica,” and stating that he had sent 400 soldiers 
to his assistance, with reinforcements to follow. Obvi- 
ously no time was to be lost, and next day (April 30th) 
Dampier and Stradling led a party up the river in their 
launches and one or two captured canoes to attack Santa 
Maria. They found the Spaniards waiting for them, 
and blundered into no fewer than three ambuscades. 
At this point Dampier was for giving up the expedition, 
pointing out that the Spaniards must have removed 
everything of value from the town. Apparently Stradling 
agreed with him, for they returned down the river to 
their ships, where provisions were now so short that 
“ five green plantains were boiled for every six men.” 
The attempt had been a fiasco. 

At twelve o’clock that night, however, as they lay 
huddled in their hammocks, trying to forget their troubles, 
the luck suddenly changed. A tall ship appeared off 
the moxith of the river — she was, in fact, a Spanish 
“ great ship ” of 550 tons — and approaching noiselessly 
through the mist, dropped anchor just beside the English 
privateers, whose nationality she had not suspected. 
Rousing themselves at the sight of this easy prey, the 
privateers were into their boats and over the sides of 
the Spaniard before the astonished dons had realized 
what was happening. She was “ deeply laden with flour. 



sugar, brandy, wine, and thirty tons of marmalade of 
quinces,” not to mention salt, linen and woollen cloth : 
so that now they might put out to sea with a good heart 
in search of further adventure. Funnell complains that 
this rich prize was never properly “ rummaged,” and 
in particular asserts that there were 80,000 dollars hidden 
somewhere in her hold ; but Dampier, who had inter- 
viewed her captain, says he had “ evident proof that she 
landed her money at Truxillo.” He must have known 
more about it than Funnell did ; but it is fair to add 
that the latter had now been promoted from the rank 
of steward, and was put on board this new prize with 
Alexander Selkirk, the mate of the “ Cinque Ports.” 
In his Vindication Dampier complained that his enemies 
had suggested that he might have obtained ransom for 
this ship. He becomes almost incoherent in his rage 
at this suggestion, referring to his critics among the 
crew as “ a parcel of fellows who were perpetually 
drunk ” ; and we, who can remember his adventures 
among the buccaneers, and how Sharp and Cook and 
the rest were continually hanging about Spanish harbours, 
waiting for ransoms that never came — a fire-ship in the 
middle of the night was a more likely answer — can 
understand his wrath. 

At Tobago, which they next visited, Dampier and 
Stradling decided to part. There is again a conflict of 
evidence : Funnell asserting that the two captains 
quarrelled, which Dampier indignantly denies. What 
is certain is that, after leaving Dampier, Stradling sailed 
south to the island of Juan Fernandez, where he had 
left five members of his crew, and stores and ammunition. 
He found them all gone, having been picked up by 
some French ships. But before leaving there he had a 
bitter quarrel with his mate, Alexander Selkirk, who 
insisted on being left alone on the island, rather than 
sail another day with Stradling. And thereby hangs 



one of the most famous tales in English literature, for 
Selkirk, as everybody knows, was the “ original ” of 
Robinson Crusoe, 

Dampier’s unhappy voyage continued, the discipline 
of his crew going steadily from bad to worse. On the 
yth June they captured a small ship, and got news from 
her that the Spaniards had fitted out two men-of-war, 
one of 32 guns, the other of 36, to cruise in the Bay of 
Guayaquil in search of the English privateers. And on 
the 2 1st they came up with one of these warships and 
fought with her all day, expending an immense amount 
of powder and shot, but neither giving nor receiving 
any serious damage. Funnell boasts that the English 
fired about 560 shots, to the Spaniards’ “ no or 115,” 
upon which Dampier comments sarcastically that “ I do 
verily believe not 60 ever hit her,” and he adds that 
such waste of ammunition was more than he could stand, 
so that in the end “ I was forced to command ’em to 
forbear firing.” They lay to all night, no doubt squab- 
bling and blaming each other for the failure, and in the 
morning found that the Spaniard had sailed away. Seeing 
a Spanish village on shore, Dampier sent in a boat to 
collect wood and provisions, but “ upon one shot fired 
at ’em they all came running aboard frighted.” “ And 
these,” he goes on in the same bitter tone, “ are the 
Mighty Bravoes that are fit to set people by the Ears 
at home, and make Scandal as rife with me as ’tis with 
them.” He accuses Bellhash, the master, Clippington, 
the mate, Bath, the gunner, and others of being always 
“ on the watch to overset the voyage,” of cheating the 
owners, and so forth. In fact, he was as tired of his 
crew as they were of him. With such an “ atmosphere ” 
on board, no voyage could be expected to succeed. 

The next move was to the Gulf of Nicoya, where 
Dampier intended to careen his ship, and repair her 
bottom. Dampier and the carpenter went among the 



islands in a canoe, looking for a suitable place, and when 
they returned to the ship in the evening they brought 
two turtles with them. Then, says Funnell, “ we went 
to work, cutting up the turtles, boiling, roasting, frying, 
baking and stewing, according as each one thought fit.” 
The life of these privateersmen was no doubt full of 
hardships, but they were at any rate in a position to 
include real turtle soup in almost every meal I Having 
chosen their place, they got the “ St. George ” in among 
the islands to a comfortable little anchorage which 
Dampier had found, “ within a stone’s cast of the shore 
all round.” They secured the ship by means of the 
anchor, and a cable round a tree at the water’s edge, 
and proceeded to make themselves at home. They set 
up tents on shore for the cooper and the sailmaker to 
work in, and others to contain their provisions, which 
they had removed from the hold of the ship before getting 
to work at her leaks ; and those of the men who were 
not otherwise employed “ went ashore often with the 
Sain (or fishing net) and caught store of fish.” When 
they came to look at the “ St. George,” they found her 
condition deplorable. To put it vulgarly, Dampier had 
once again been sold a pup. Her timbers were even 
rottener than those of the “ Roebuck ” ; her bottom 
was “ eaten like a honeycomb ” ; Funnell asserts that 
the “ firm plank was no thicker than a sixpence,” so 
that in places “ we could thrust our thumbs quite through 
with ease.” These are obvious exaggerations, but they 
indicate the kind of gossip that was going on among 
the crew. Owing to their failure at the native village 
mentioned above, they were without suitable timber to 
repair the ship, and the carpenter was forced to “ stop 
the leaks as well as he could with nails and oakum.” 

Now Dampier had fitted out one of his small Spanish 
prizes as a long-boat, and on her he had placed all his 
ammunition and a part of his provisions while the “ St. 



George ” was being repaired. Here was an obvious 
opportunity for intending mutineers. Dampier’s mate, 
Clippington, a man of surly and cantankerous temper, 
had long been dissatisfied, and he seems to have come to 
the conclusion that it would not be safe to put to sea 
again in the “ St. George.” He therefore collected 
twenty-one other malcontents, and, suddenly boarding 
the prize, he seized her, and sailed away, taking with 
him the ammunition and provisions. Dampier and 
Funnell are agreed about the main facts here, except 
that the latter tries to excuse Clippington, by saying that 
he later put some of the ammunition ashore, “ that we 
might not be quite destitute.” Welbe tells a very im- 
probable story, to the effect that Dampier formally 
authorized Clippington’s proceedings, saying that he and 
his friends “ might take the barque and go where they 
pleased, and he would give them arms.” This is a 
palpable falsehood ; for if Dampier in a fit of madness 
had given Clippington leave to take the arms away, why 
should the latter have come back again and restored 
some, as he does in Funnell’s story ? Obviously he had 
a twinge of conscience. And obviously Welbe is a 
witness who will say almost anything. Clippington, in 
the “ Dragon,” afterwards made an adventurous voyage 
to the East Indies, and, returning to England in 1706, 
he sailed in company with the well-known privateer 
commander, Shelvocke, who gives him an extremely bad 
character. He died about twenty years later, being then 
in a state of destitution. 

Finding himself thus deserted by a considerable portion 
of his crew, Dampier determined upon one last desperate 
effort to achieve the kind of success that would restore 
the morale of the remainder, and send them home to 
England comparatively rich men. He decided to go 
for the Manila ship. Accordingly they cruised to the 
west, having “ very dirty squally weather,” and on the 



9th October they took a small Spanish barque, whose 
captain was a Spaniard named Christian Martin, who 
had been brought up in London and was actually 
cruising in the West Indies with Captain Eaton when 
he deserted and entered the service of Spain. This 
man was very useful to Dampier in his search 
(we may safely disregard Welbe’s allegation that at 
this point Dampier deliberately attempted to desert 
those of his crew who were in the captured barque) ; 
and on the 6th December they at last came in 
sight of the Manila ship. The galleon, with her big 
eighteen and twenty-four pounders, could have sunk the 
“ St. George ” with one broadside ; but the privateers 
attacked her without hesitation, and the Spaniards, with 
their usual incompetence, failed to bring most of their 
guns to bear. Funnell says that Captain Martin advised 
Dampier to board at once, and indeed it seemed to be 
their only chance ; but Dampier, unfortunately, hesi- 
tated, and, while the question was still being debated, 
the “ St. George ” received a shot between wind and 
water, whereupon “ the signal was made to stand off 
from the enemy.” Funnell states these facts without 
comment, but Welbe flatly accuses Dampier of cowardice. 
When he was urged to “ clap her on board,” all he 
could say was “ Where is the canoe ? Where is the 
canoe ? ” and he “ was for getting into the boat to save 
his life.” Dampier blames his crew again, asserting 
that the “ very man at the helm contradicted my orders, 
edg’d her away to leeward once more : at which I 
offered to shoot him through the head.” Upon which 
the obvious comment is that no really efficient com- 
mander (Woodes Rogers, for instance) would ever have 
been found arguing the point with the man at the helm. 

If the men of the “ St. George ” had been feeling 
discouraged before, they were now in a state of gloom 
which must sooner or later lead to mutiny. The end of 



it was that the “ St. George ” parted company with the 
barque, upon which were no fewer than thirty-three of 
the men (Funnell and Welbe among them) who were 
determined to sail in her for India. Now, according to 
Dampier, guns and provisions for the barque were taken 
from him by force. He says that Bellhash, the master, 
“ took him by the throat, the rest standing by, and swore 
he would dash his brains out if he said a word.” Even 
Morgan, the owners’ agent, was against him. A certain 
Toby Thomas, one of the officers, and a man whose 
personality seems to have irritated Dampier to madness, 
approached him at this juncture, and said, “ Poor 
Dampier, thy case is like King James’s, everybody has 
left thee.” “ That buffoon ! ” exclaims Dampier, 
shrilly — ^he can never mention his name without a sneer — 
that “ never-to-be-forgotten noble Captain Thomas ! ” 
Funnell and Welbe swear that Dampier agreed to the 
departure of the barque, which, as it took four of his 
guns, with small arms and ammunition and a large part 
of his provisions, seems extremely unlikely. He did, 
however, get rid of Welbe, who, from now on, transfers 
his attentions to Morgan, libelling him thoughtfully and 
comprehensively in a series of letters to Lord Townshend, 
which Mr. Masefield has unearthed. 

Thirty-five men departed in the barque, leaving 
Dampier with twenty-eight followers and twenty-eight 
guns on his crazy craft. Yet the very shipwreck of his 
plans seems to have inspired him with new courage. 
While the barque and its mutinous crew set sail for the 
East, the “ St. George ” returned to the coast of South 
America, and there they landed and took the town of 
Puna, which they ransacked. It was perhaps the most 
successful exploit of the whole voyage ; but in the 
absence of Funnell we get no detailed description. After 
the sack of Puna, they put to sea, and presently captured 
a Spanish ship, to which they transferred themselves. 


leaving the poor old “ St. George ” a drifting, leaking 
derelict, to sink at her leisure. Their subsequent adven- 
tures are obscure, but it is known that they sailed in 
their prize to the Dutch East Indies, where, as Dampier 
had lost his commission at Puna, they were all arrested 
and thrown into prison. How long they remained there 
is uncertain, but they were eventually released, and 
Dampier returned to England. 

He returned, as usual, not a penny richer than he was 
when he left. I say this advisedly, for some years later 
an action was begun in the Chancery Division against 
Dampier, Stradling and several other defendants, mer- 
chants of Bristol, accusing them of misappropriating the 
proceeds of this voyage.^ Morgan, the owners’ agent, 
is also aimed at, though not “ joined ” in the action. 
It is alleged that, on leaving Dampier, he took with 
him half the booty, sold it at a high profit in Batavia, 
and on his return to England produced only £ 600 , 
saying he could get no more. As for Dampier, the story 
is that, after his return to England, he and others met 
“ at the Young Devill Tavern, near Temple Bar,” and 
at various private houses, and there conspired together 
to make a division of the spoil and to use the money to 
fit out a “ second expedition ” — ^Woodes Rogers’s. The 
“ inwardness ” of all this is that the plaintiff (a woman) 
was the heir-at-law of one of those who put money into 
the unsuccessful “ St. George ” venture, and now hoped 
to recoup her estate by claiming a share in that of 
Woodes Rogers, which was very profitable. The action 
was apparently dropped. Dampier never put a penny 
into the Woodes Rogers voyage. He was too late to 
do so, even if he had possessed the means. And we 
happen to know that at the very first port of call he had 

^ See Dr. B. M. H. Rogers’s account in the Mariner’s Mirror, 1924, 
of some MS. papers lent to me by Mr. F. H. Goldney of Cosham, 
Wilts.” I shall have occasion to refer to these papers again. 



to borrow money in order to provide himself with 

But Dampier, when he landed in England, “ broke ” 
once more, found himself in a pleasant enough atmo- 
sphere. In spite of the failure of his voyage, and the 
evidence it afforded of those weaknesses of temperament 
which always prevented him from being a really successful 
leader of men, his great reputation as a navigator was 
unimpaired. His friends stood by him. He was called 
to London, and presented to the Queen, that he might 
give her an account of his adventures. And when he 
had relieved his feelings by writing his Vindication in 
reply to Funnell’s book, he found that there was still 
no lack of openings for him at sea. Englishmen who 
had twice circumnavigated the globe were rare in 
those days. 

It is at this point, I am well aware, that I shall be 
expected to explain what effect these events had upon 
Dampier’s psychology. What, in short, were his “ re- 
actions ” ? It is a fact that he never held another com- 
mand, and, so far as we know, never asked for one. Is 
there significance in that } Was he beginning to doubt 
himself at last ? That would be tragedy. Dampier 
himself was the least introspective of men ; but it is 
safe to answer for him that he never cared a fig for 
command — only for exploration and adventure. There 
is one sign, and one only, that his spirit may be failing 
him a little ; and that is that he no longer keeps a 
diary. But his courage and confidence are obviously 
undiminished. As long as he can continue to get about 
the world, and continue to enjoy the confidence of his 
scientific friends in London who appreciate what he is 
trying to do, he will snap his fingers at the rest. 

^ See page 237. 



F all Dampier’s voyages, it is probable 
that this next one, upon which he 
was about to set out, was, as Sir 
Albert Gray suggests, the happiest 
to himself. 

He was now a man of fifty-six, a 
dark, attractive, brooding figure, the 
friend of leading scientists, the life- 
long associate of desperate adventurers — a man with a 
great and well-established reputation, but one of a kind 
quite peculiar to himself. He had written the best travel- 
book in the English language since Hakluyt ; but when it 
came to travelling, he had too often managed just to miss 
his goal. Merchant adventurers, as Dampier’s critics 
have suggested, may have begun about this time to look 
a little askance at him, as an unlucky commander. Yet, 
in some respects, and those not precisely what we should 
have expected, his reputation evidently stood higher than 
ever. The continued support of his scientific friends. 
Sir Robert Southwell, Sir Hans Sloane and the rest, 
and the Royal favour which this implied, may have been 
due to better recognition of his value as a writer on 
hydrography. His admirable Discourse on Winds, it will 
be remembered, had not left the printers’ hands when 
he sailed from England in the “ Roebuck.” In his 
absence it had been read and appreciated, and we can 
imagine people like Sloane and Southwell, and even 




Wren and Newton, pointing out to their friends in the 
coffee-houses that no other living Englishman was capable 
of producing this detailed account of the conditions that 
explorers might expect in so many different parts of the 
world. They would have been interested, too, in his 
discoveries on the coast of New Guinea. To us, who 
know what he so narrowly missed on the adjoining 
continent of Australia, the voyage of the “ Roebuck ” 
may seem a failure ; but to his contemporaries it repre- 
sented a tremendous advance upon the geographical 
knowledge of their time ; and geographers were prepared 
to render due acknowledgment to its author, without 
troubling themselves about his squabbles with his 

In the Spanish West Indies, on the other hand, it 
was his reputation as a fighting man that had become 
formidable. He had spent so much time there that 
every local Spaniard was familiar with his name. Con- 
temporary critics are agreed — ^whether they like Dampier 
or not — that his name had become a terror in those 
waters, unequalled since the days of Morgan and 
L’Olonois. It may seem absurd to us who know how 
little of the bloodthirsty swashbuckler there was in his 
character. It may have seemed absurd to many of his 
contemporaries, who had sailed with him. But in the 
history of Woodes Rogers’s voyages — not a word of 
which was written by Dampier himself — ^we shall find 
evidence again and again of the fear which he inspired 
all along the Spanish Main. And it is not to be sup- 
posed that the merchant adventurers of England were 
so ill-informed as to be unaware of this fact. They 
might hesitate to trust their ships in his unlucky hands, 
but they would want the help, if they could get it, of 
his unique knowledge and reputation. 

Dampier cannot have been many months in England 
before he heard of the projected voyage of two Bristol 



privateers, under that very able commander, Captain 
Woodes Rogers. One of Dampier’s biographers (Dr. 
Harris)^ has suggested that the voyage was his own idea. 
Writing only thirty years after Dampier’s death, when 
we might expect a reasonable degree of accuracy in 
these matters, Harris says : “ He [Dampier] addressed 
himself to the Merchants of Bristol, who are justly 
reputed the most active and pushing people in this 
Nation. They heard his proposals with patience, 
examined them with attention, and at last saw so much 
of probability in what he offered and such likelihood of 
his proving a good pilot, tho’ he had been but an unlucky 
Captain, that they determined to fit out two ships at 
his instance.” I wish I could adopt this view of what 
happened. Unfortunately we know that the voyage had 
already been decided upon, the ship selected, and the 
command given to Woodes Rogers before Dampier 
returned to England from the East. Woodes Rogers 
was a member of a well-known Bristol family. The 
merchants who made themselves responsible for the 
undertaking were his friends, and to those of them who 
were still alive on his return to England, he dedicated 
his lively narrative,^ which is our principal authority for 
the events of the voyage. Woodes Rogers had pro- 
pounded a definite scheme, and got it accepted, before 
Dampier appeared in the matter at all. What Harris 
may have had in mind was a passage in another account 
of this voyage (the only other one we possess) written 
by Captain Edward Cooke, who was second-in-command 
on the “ Duchess,” under Woodes Rogers. Cooke, 
speaking of the origin of the voyage, refers to Dampier’s 
recent failure to take the “ Manila or Acapulco ship,” 

^ Dr. John Harris, D.D., F.R.S, author of A Complete Collection of 
Voyages and Travels. London : 1744. 

® A Cruising Voyage Round the World. By Captain Woodes Rogers. 
London, 1712. 



and adds : ■ “ But the said Captain Dampier never gave 
over the project till he had prevailed with some able 
persons at Bristol to venture upon an undertaking which 
might turn to a prodigious advantage.” The truth 
seems to be that what Dampier did was to advise the 
captain and owners as to the objectives to be aimed at, 
the general direction and strategy of the voyage. That 
was his sole share in the preliminary organization. It 
must have occupied a good deal of his time ; and, as 
he was only in England eight or nine months, it probably 
accounts for the hurried, clumsy style of his Vindication^ 
which he then wrote in reply to Funnell, whose book 
had just appeared. 

As to the post which Woodes Rogers offered him — 
that of pilot — there is no reason to suppose that he felt 
in any way degraded by having to accept it. Woodes 
Rogers was his friend (for it may be presumed that this 
is the “ Captain Rogers ” several times referred to in 
Dampier’s writings), and it was no uncommon thing at 
that time for one who had held chief command to sail 
afterwards in a minor capacity. There were altogether 
five captains on these two ships, three on the “ Duke,” 
and two on the “ Duchess.” The composition of the 
crews is interesting. They had more than double the 
number of officers usual in privateers, and Woodes 
Rogers explains that he arranged this on purpose “ to 
prevent mutinies, which often happen in long voyages, 
and that we might have a large provision for a succession 
of officers in each ship, in case of mortality.” Here is 
Woodes Rogers’s list of the officers of the “ Duke ” ; 

“ Woodes Rogers, Captain, a Mariner ; Thomas Dover, 
a Doctor of Physick, second Captain, President of our 
Council, and Captain of the Marines ; Carleton Van- 
brugh, Merchant, now our Owner’s Agent ; Robert 
Fry, a Mariner, chief Lieutenant ; Charles Pope, second 


Lieutenant ; Thomas Glendall, third Lieutenant ; John 
Bridge, Master ; William Dampier, Pilot for the South 
Seas, who had already been three times there and twice 
round the world ; Alexander Vaughan, chief mate ; 
Lane. Appleby, second mate ; John Babet, rated third 
mate, but design’d Surgeon, if occasion ; he had been 
Captain Dampier’s doctor, in his last unfortunate Voyage 
round the World ; Samuel Hopkins, being Dr. Dover’s 
Kinsman, and an Apothecary, was both an Assistant to 
him, and to act as his Lieutenant if we landed a party 
anywhere under his Command during the Voyage ; 
George Underhill and John Parker, two young Lawyers, 
design’d to act as Midshipmen ; John Vigor, a Refor- 
mado to act as Captain Dover’s Ensign when ashore ; 
Benj. Parsons and Howel Knethel, Midshipmen ; 
Richard Edwards, Coxswain of the Pinnace, to receive 
Midshipmen’s Pay ; James Wasse, Surgeon ; Charles 
May, his mate ; John Lancy, Assistant ; Henry 
Oliphant, Gunner, with eight Men called the Gunners’ 
crew ; Nath. Scorch, Carpenter ; John Jones, his Mate, 
with three Assistants ; Giles Cash, Boatswain ; and 
John Pillar, his Mate ; John Shepard, Cooper, with 
two Assistants ; John Johnson, Thomas Young, Charles 
Clovet and John Bowden, all four Quarter-Masters ; 
John Finch, late wholesale oileman of London, now 
Steward ; Henry Newkirk, Sailmaker ; Peter Vanden- 
heude, Smith and Armourer ; William Hopkins, Ship’s 
Corporal, Capt. Dover’s Sergeant, and Cook to the 
Officers ; Barth. Burnes, Ship’s Cook.” 

The two young lawyers who were “ design’d to act as 
Midshipmen,” the “ Reformado,” who would be either 
a volunteer or some officer who had been deprived of 
his command, but retained his rank, and the “ whole- 
sale oileman of London ” who — stirred by some prick- 
ings of romance, no doubt — ^had turned ship’s steward, 



are unusual features of the list. As for Babet, the 
Deputy-Surgeon, it is interesting to note that Dampier, 
in his recently published Vindication^ had asserted that 
only one of all his officers of the “ St. George ” had 
stood by him when Funnell and the rest deserted with 
the barque, and that one was the “ doctor ” — no. doubt 
John Babet. It is pleasant to think that Dampier was 
able to help him to further employment. 

As for the men, one-third of them were foreigners 
and the rest, in Woodes Rogers’s words, “ tailors, 
tinkers, peddlars, fiddlers and haymakers ” — anything, 
in fact, but seamen. Yet they seem to have taken very 
kindly to the sailor’s way of life, for when the “ Duke ” 
and “ Duchess ” put into Cork, their first port of call, 
Woodes Rogers found his crew “ continually marrying ” 
the girls on shore. He particvilarly mentions a Dane, 
who was “ coupled by a Romish priest to an Irish 
Woman, without understanding a word of each other’s 
language, so that they were forced to use an interpreter.” 
What struck Woodes Rogers as curious was that, when 
they left Cork, “ this pair seemed more afflicted at the 
separation than any of the rest.” “ The fellow continued 
melancholy for several days ” ; whereas the others would 
“ drink their cans of flip ” (a sort of hot punch made of 
beer and spirits) to the last moment, and then “ part 

They had sailed from Bristol on August 2nd, 1708, 
Woodes Rogers himself being on the “ Duke,” a ship 
of 320 tons, carrying 30 guns and 117 men ; and 
Captain Stephen Courtney commanding the “ Duchess,” 
which was of 260 tons, 26 guns and 108 men. But on 
neither of these crowded ships, says Woodes Rogers, 
were there more than twenty real sailors. However he 
was nothing if not an optimist, and he looked to get some 
useful hands in Cork. On the way there he gave a 
taste of his quality by administering a sound thrashing 



to an incompetent local pilot, who had sought to lead 
them into the wrong bay. At Cork there seems to have 
been something like a rush to join the ships, for Captain 
Cooke in his book gives their nximbers upon leaving 
that port as 170 men on the “ Duke,” and 151 on the 
“ Duchess.” Indeed Woodes Rogers says that they were 
“ pestered ” with applications. It may be noted here 
that genuine privateering (as distinguished from piracy) 
was now a more paying proposition than it had been 
when Dampier sailed in the “ St. George,” for an Act of 
Parliament had been passed abolishing the Government’s 
share of one-fifth of the prize money, and transferring 
whole interest to the owners and crew. 

On the morning of September ist, they sailed from 
Cork in company with H.M.S. “ Hastings ” and a 
convoy of about twenty merchantmen. At first there 
was considerable confusion on board, “as is usual in 
privateers at setting out,” but Woodes Rogers quickly 
restored things to order. On the 5th he and Courtney 
assembled their crews, and for the first time disclosed to 
them the ambitious design of the voyage, from which 
they could hardly expect to return in less than three 
years. It must have been a shock to some of them, 
but Woodes Rogers had a great “ way with him,” On 
board the “ Duke ” there was no protest of any kind, 
“ except from one fellow who expected to have been 
tything-man that year in his parish, and said his wife 
would be obliged to pay forty shillings in his absence : 
but seeing all the rest willing he was easily quieted, and 
all hands drank to a good voyage.” 

So far, so good, but Woodes Rogers now found himself 
in a difficult position. He knew he must encounter cold 
weather in rounding Cape Horn ; but as none of his 
men had been aware of his true destination, they were 
“ but meanly clad ” for such a voyage. There are two 
methods of keeping sailormen warm off the Horn : by 



giving them warm clothes or by strong liquor ; and as 
Woodes Rogers shrewdly remarks, “ Good liquor to 
sailors is preferable to clothing.” But in this case the 
stock of liquor also was running low. It was a question, 
therefore, whether it would not be advisable to put in to 
Madeira — a name of high standing in this connection 
— before proceeding any farther, and there procure 
such a supply of the generous wines of that country 
as would ensure that the shivering crews would at 
any rate feel warm inside when they reached the colder 

Woodes Rogers therefore called a committee meeting 
of officers on board the “ Duke ” ; and as this is the 
first of those discussions, of which we shall hear so much 
before we have done with this voyage, it is necessary to 
say a word about the somewhat unusual “ constitution ” 
which had been drawn up, with the owners’ approval, 
before the vessels sailed. In that document it was laid 
down that all “ attempts, attacks and designs upon the 
enemy ” should first be discussed in committee of the 
officers, and the same applied to all “ discontents, differ- 
ences or misbehaviour.” Woodes Rogers, though a 
notably masterful man who cannot have enjoyed being 
contradicted, carried the principle even further than this. 
On all important occasions he would call a committee 
meeting ; and even when nothing particular was happen- 
ing he would sometimes assemble his officers and get 
them to sign a kind of general testimonial, stating that 
they agreed with everything that had been done up to 
date. He declares that without this rather tedious 
method of procedure “ we could never have performed 
the voyage,” and, remembering the intractability of most 
crews at that time, we can weU believe it. 

Dampier’s signature appears under the minutes of 
practically every meeting, and it is clear that his great 
experience made him one of the most valuable members 



of the committee. He may sometimes have reflected 
upon the contrast between Woodes Rogers’s breezy tact 
and his own methods on such occasions — ^which, accord- 
ing to Welbe of the “ St. George,” had consisted of 
setting forth his own opinion at the outset, and losing 
his temper when anyone disagreed with it. One happy 
result of these everlasting meetings on the “ Duke ” 
was that they effectually precluded the appearance of 
such books as Funnell’s and Welbe’s, for the commander 
was armed with the written approval of the officers for 
almost everything he had done. As for the discussion 
about the Madeira wines, it is perhaps hardly necessary 
to say that the decision was made in their favour ; but 
I give the minutes of the committee meeting here in 
full, as a typical example of how this most democratic 
voyage was conducted ; 

“ At a Committee held on Board the ‘ Duke ’ Frigate, 
resolv’d by the General Consent of the following 
Persons : 

That hath the Ships ‘ Duke ’ and ‘ Duchess ’ do touch at 
Madera to make a larger Provision of Liquors.^ the better 
to carry on our long Undertakings being but meanly stor'd 
for so large a Number of Men as are in both Ships ; and 
in case of separation between this Place and Madera^ then 
to meet at the island St. Vincents one of the Cape de V erd 
Islands, to wood and water our Ships. But if we miss of 
one another at that Island, or that the first Ship finds it 
inconvenient for stopping, then to proceed to Praia on St. 
Jago, another of the same Islands ; to wait at both these 
islands fourteen days ; And then, if the missing Ship does 
not appear, the other to proceed to the Isle of Grande in 
Latitude 23 deg. 30 w. S. on the Coast of Brazil, there to 
wait three Weeks ; and then if we don't meet, let the 
Single Ship proceed on the Voyage, according to the Orders 



given from our Owners : This is our Opinion this ^th day 
of September, 1708. 

Thos. Dover, President 
Stephen Courtney 
W ooDES Rogers 
Edward Cooke 
William Dampier 
Robert Frye 

So they steered for Madeira, and on the way overtook a 
Swedish ship, which they strictly examined for contra- 
band. Some of the crew, who were deplorably drunk, 
told the Englishmen that there was gunpowder on 
board ; but no one could find it, so they let the Swede 
go ; and her master gave Woodes Rogers two hams and 
some “ rufft dry’d Beef,” and “ I gave him a dozen 
Bottles of Red-Streak Cyder.” 

While this pleasant exchange was being made, the 
first mutiny broke out on board the “ Duke.” We, who 
have had to listen to so much criticism of Dampier, 
should note that Woodes Rogers was then only eleven 
days out from Cork ! He had taken his crew into his 
confidence, and they had heartily approved the design 
of his voyage ; he was about to put into Madeira for the 
express purpose of getting on board a stock of the 
liquor which they loved ; all the omens were propitious ; 
and they chose this moment to mutiny — ^apparently 
because they wanted him to make a prize of this neutral 
Swedish ship. One sailor was whipped, ten put in irons, 
“ some begged my pardon, and others I was forced to 
wink at,” says Woodes Rogers. Woodes Rogers 
assembled the rest of the men, and “ laboured to con- 
vince them ” that it would have been a mistake to behave 
like pirates at the very outset of their voyage. The 
boatswain, Giles Cash, who had been the leader of the 

Charles Pope 
Carleton Vanbrugh 
Tho. Glendall 
John Bridges 
John Babet.” 


mutineers, was degraded ; and when a deputation of 
seamen came to the Captain to plead for him, Woodes 
Rogers’s reply was to send him on board another 
English ship, the “ Crown ” galley, which had been 
accompanying them, for removal to England. 

The wind being contrary, they passed Madeira, and 
cruised among the Canary Islands. Here they took a 
Spanish prize, and extorted ransom from the town of 
Oratava, in the form of brandy and wine. Vanbrugh, 
the agent, here began to show himself as the nuisance 
that he was. He insisted upon going ashore, against 
his Captain’s orders, and was of course arrested, and had 
to be exchanged against the prisoners from the Spanish 
prize. Sailing away for South America, much encour- 
aged by their new stock of liquor, they crossed the Line 
on September 25th. Here the greenhorns were ducked 
from the yard-arm in the customary ceremonial manner, 
and Woodes Rogers remarks that it “ approved of great 
use to our fresh water sailors, to recover the colour of 
their skins, which were grown very black and nasty.” 
Calling at the Cape Verde Islands, Courtney and Woodes 
Rogers were annoyed to find the men selling their 
clothes (the few that they had) to the negroes for mere 
“ trifles.” The practice was immediately prohibited. 

On October 8th, while still at anchor among the 
islands, Woodes Rogers held an important committee 
meeting on board the “ Duchess,” at which the delicate 
question of “ plunder ” was considered. The privateers- 
man’s code distinguished between captured property, 
which clearly belonged to the owners, and loot or 
” plunder ” of a more personal and accidental character, 
which was commonly divided among the men on the 
spot. There had been so much grumbling and squab- 
bling about the Spanish prize already taken that Woodes 
Rogers now found it necessary to modify his “ constitu- 
tion ” with the owners, so as to give the men’s predatory 


instincts more scope. He drew up a scale of shares, 
from himself down to the humblest sailor, which effec- 
tually restored the temper of his crews, though the 
owners lost something by it. He also offered a reward 
of twenty pieces of eight to the first man who should 
sight a valuable prize. And, having done this, he set 
sail once more across the ocean for Trinidad. ^ 

On the way there was another mutiny, this time on 
the “ Duchess.” The leader was a truculent individual 
named William Page, one of the mates. Courtney came 
on board the “ Duke ” to see Woodes Rogem about it, 
and it was decided to remove Page from the “ Duchess,” 
in exchange for Babet, Dampier’s old friend. But when 
these orders were conveyed to Page, he refused to^ budge, 
whereupon the dignified Captain Cooke, second-in-com- 
mand, lost his temper and went for him, and “ several 
blows passed.” ^ Eventually the man, after jumping 
overboard and otherwise behaving like a lunatic, was 
lashed to the main jears on the “ Duke,” and heartily 
“ drubbed.” After which they put him in irons and 

left him. , ^ • j j i 

Finding themselves unable to fetch Trinidad, they 

bore away for the island of Grande in Brazil. When 
the land came in sight, they sent Dampier off in the 
pinnace to find the entrance to the bay, and he returned 
presently and piloted them in. He also brought a large 
turtle— an unfamiliar delicacy to most of those on board. 
England and Portugal being at this time friends, and 
the French and Spaniards the enemies of both, jt was 
decided to remain for some time at this Brazilian island, 
in order to repair their ships, especially the “ Duchess,” 
which was in a bad way and needed to be “ heeled both 
sides.” They had been in the Bay only a few hours, 

1 Cooke, in his solemn, conscientious account of the voyage, says not 
a word of this incident, of which he was probably ashamed. But, 
his is a dull book— -though useful occasionally for matters of fact. 


when Courtney had to put eight of his men in irons for 
refusing to obey orders ; and a night or two later two 
of his men ran away, but, wandering about the woods 
in the darkness, “ were so frightened with Tygers, as 
they thought, but really by Monkeys and Baboons, that 
they ran into the Water hollowing to the Ship, till they 
were fetched aboard again.” Undeterred by this, two 
Irish “ landmen ” ran away from the “ Duke ” on the 
following day, but were found by the “ Duchess’s ” boats, 
which had gone ashore for water, and brought back 
under guard. Woodes Rogers had them “ severely 
whipped and put in irons.” After that discipline really 
did seem to improve. 

The ships were now ready to leave their hospitable 
Portuguese island ; but before doing so, Woodes Rogers 
went with all his officers to the little town of Angre de 
Reys to pay a formal visit to the Governor, Sefior 
Raphael de Silva Lagos, who received them “ very hand- 
somely.” It happened to be a saint’s day, and the 
occasion of a great religious procession through the 
town ; and the Governor at once asked his English 
guests if they would like to be present at the ceremonies. 
“ We told him,” says Woodes Rogers, “ our religion 
differed very much from his ” ; but he waived all their 
objections aside, and insisted upon their joining in the 
church service and the subsequent procession. Nothing 
loath, the English officers, who had just had an excellent 
dinner, rose from their chairs and sallied out. In the 
street they collected their ship’s band, which they had 
fortunately brought ashore with them from the “ Duke,” 
and it was immediately proposed that the English band 
should perform a few musical interludes during the 
service, and should head the great procession to the 
church. The scene that followed is one of the most 
remarkable in all the picturesque annals of the privateers. 
It also illustrates two of Woodes Rogers’s special gifts — 



his popularity with all sorts and conditions of men, and 
his gift of vivid narrative. He writes : 

" Our Musick play’d, Hey Boys up go we ! and all manner 
of noisy paltry Tunes ; and after Service our Musicians, 
who were by that time more than half drunk, march’d 
at the head of the Company, next to them an old Father 
and two Fryars carrying Lamps of Incense with the 
Host, next came the Virgin Mary on a Bier carry’d on 
four Men’s shoulders and dress’d with Flowers and Wax 
Candles etc. After her came the Padre Guardian of 
the Convent, and then about forty Priests, Fryars etc. 
Next was the Governor of the Town, myself and Capt. 
Courtney with each of us a long Wax Candle lighted : 
Next followed the rest of our Officers, the chief Inhabit- 
ants and junior Priests, with everyone a lighted Wax 
Candle. The Ceremony held about two hours, after 
which we were splendidly entertained by the Fathers of 
the Convent.” 

What a scene under the palm trees and the tropical 
sky ! They stayed the night in Angre de Reys, and 
next day returned to their ships, taking with them the 
Governor and “ Gentlemen of the town ” (there can’t 
have been many, for there were only sixty houses in all). 
The Canary wine was brought out, and the greatest 
cordiality prevailed. The guests “ were very merry, and 
in their cups proposed the Pope’s health to us ; but we 
were quits with ’em by toasting that of the Archbishop 
of Canterbury ; to keep up the Humour, we also pro- 
posed William Penn’s to them : and they liked the 
liquor so well that they refused neither.” 

On the 3rd December, in the afternoon, the two 
privateers weighed anchor, and set sail from the pleasant 
island of Grande on their long voyage round the Horn 
to Juan Fernandez. Before starting they held a com- 



mittee meeting and removed Vanbrugh from the position 
of owners’ agent on the “ Duke.” He had been up to 
his tricks again. Without the slightest provocation, he 
had ordered the men to fire at an Indian canoe, whereby 
one of the unfortunate natives was killed, and this was 
the kind of offence that Woodes Rogers never forgave. 
They had a terrible passage round the Horn, and the 
“ Duchess ” was at one time in considerable danger. 
When the weather had somewhat abated, Woodes Rogers 
took Dampier with him in a boat and went aboard his 
consort to see how she fared. She had shipped a great 
deal of water, and her men were soaked to the skin ; and 
since it was now so cold that they expected at any 
moment to encounter icebergs, their sufferings must 
have been terrible. But Captain Courtney already had 
their clothes out drying on the rigging, and by getting 
some of his guns down into the hold he had succeeded 
in making his ship more “ lively,” so that she did better 
after this. But everyone was glad when Juan Fernandez 
came in sight on January 31st. 

Here occurred one of the most memorable incidents 
of the voyage — the rescue of Alexander Selkirk. Cooke’s 
account is here a useful supplement to his commander’s 
livelier narrative. The afternoon was already well 
advanced when they sent in a boat to look for a suitable 
anchorage. The men were pulling in towards the land 
in the failing light, the island looming up dim and 
mountainous before them, when those in the ship per- 
ceived a fire among the trees ; and Woodes Rogers, 
not unnaturally jumping to the conclusion that there 
must be Spaniards about (with their ships perhaps out 
of sight behind some headland), recalled his boat by 
signal. We can guess what must have been the feelings 
of the unhappy Selkirk, who had, of course, lit this fire 
as a signal to the English ship — ^the first he had seen for 
four and a half years ! 

2i8 william DAMPIER 

Next morning, however, they stood in closer and sent 
in another boat, which discovered no enemies, but a 
solitary person running wildly about the beach, “ with 
a white ensign ” which he waved to attract their atten- 
tion. “ He was clothed,” says Cooke, “ in a goatskin 
jacket, breeches and cap, sewed together with thongs of 
the same.” They called to him to show them a good 
place for anchorage, and he gave them directions in a 
strange, stumbling voice, “ and then ran along the shore 
in sight of the boat, so swiftly that the native goats 
could not have outstripped him.” When they had seen 
the place, they invited him into the boat, that he might 
return to the ship with them, but “ he first enquired 
whether a certain officer that he knew was aboard ; and 
hearing that he was would rather have chosen to remain 
in his solitude than come away with him, till informed 
that he was not in command.” Cooke is too tactful to 
give this officer’s name. It may have been Dampier (I 
do not know whether he was in the boat at the time), 
and certainly, if Selkirk was referring only to the officers 
of the “ St. George ” and the “ Cinque Ports,” there 
was no other who would be likely to be “ in command ” 
on this occasion — ^though there were others, such as 
John Babet, who had sailed in the earlier voyage. On 
the other hand, Dampier appeared now as Selkirk’s 
friend, praising him highly to Woodes^ Rogers and 
describing him as the best man on Stradling’s ship, so 
that, as we shall see, the castaway was presently promoted 
to be second mate of the “Duke.” There is other 
evidence, too, that Selkirk was on friendly terms with 
Dampier. In fact, we are left guessing. 

Lieutenant Fry, who was in the boat, stepped ashore, 
and at Selkirk’s invitation, followed him along a circuitous 
and “ uncouth ” path over the rocks, until they “ came 
at last into a pleasant spot of ground, full of grass and 
furnished with trees, where he aaw two small huts. 


(Showing the tents used hy Anson when he znsited the island, during his voyage round the world) 



indifferently built, the one being the lodging room and 
the other the kitchen.” This is from Cooke. Woodes 
Rogers says : “ In the lesser hut, at some distance from 
the other, he dressed his victuals, and in the larger he 
slept and employed himself in reading, singing Psalms 
and praying, so that he said he was a better Christian 
while in this Solitude than ever he was before, or than, 
he was afraid, he should ever be again.” 

Selkirk told Fry that at first he had been able to 
eat nothing, owing to the absence of salt, but afterwards 
subsisted on seals and “ other fish,” until he had become 
so hard and nimble that he could run barefoot over the 
rocky ground at a speed which enabled him to catch 
the wild goats for his dinner. Not wishing to deplete 
the stock, he had kept a record of his kills, which showed 
that he had eaten five hundred goats altogether in the 
four and a half years of his stay. The goats, of course, 
were a legacy from some previous visit by a European 
ship ; so were the innumerable rats which kept him 
awake at night, “ gnawing at his feet ” ; and the cats 
which he fed and encouraged so that they might rid 
him of the rats ; also the turnips and parsnips, some of 
which had originally been sown there by Dampier’s 
men. They got him back to the boat and off to the 
ship, where he was received by the Commander. 

Woodes Rogers was keenly interested. At first, he 
says, “ we could scarce understand him, for he seemed 
to speak his words by halves.” What astonished the 
privateers even more, he refused “ a dram ” when it 
was offered to him, “ having drank nothing but water 
since his being there.” There was much eager con- 
versation on the quarter-deck, as their uncouth guest 
stood before them ; and “ Captain Dampier tells of a 
Mosquito Indian that lived here three years alone and 
shifted much in the same manner as Mr. Selkirk did, 
till Captain Dampier came hither in 1684 and carried 



him off.” ^ I think Woodes Rogers and Dampier must 
have gone ashore with Selkirk the next day, for the 
former gives us many details of “ Robinson Crusoe’s ” 
life on the island — ^how when the Spaniards came to the 
place, he hid in the trees and waited till they had gone 
(there was no “ Man Friday ”) ; how he had “ tamed 
some kids, and to divert himself would now and then 
sing and dance with them and his cats ” ; and of how 
they tested his fleetness of foot by bringing ashore the 
ship’s bulldog and setting it to race against him, when 
Selkirk always “ tired ” the dog. The whole incident 
of Selkirk’s rescue is one which would have been memor- 
able in any case. It is doubly interesting to-day as 
showing us so plainly the principal source of Defoe’s 
immortal story. 

The “ Governor ” of Juan Fernandez, as Rogers nick- 
named Selkirk, was now set to catch a plentiful supply 
of goats ; and with this diet of fresh meat, with turnips 
and parsnips, the men soon began to recover from the 
effects of their long journey round the Horn. The 
ships, too, were repaired, and on the 12th February, 
the little squadron set sail northward for the coasts of 
Chile and Peru, Selkirk having been installed as mate 
on the “ Duke.” Their main objective now was the 
Manila ship, and Woodes Rogers took the opportunity 
of a sudden calm to call his officers on board the “ Duke ” 
for another committee meeting on the subject of plunder. 
He had conceived the idea of appointing a representative 
of the men on each ship, to share with an officer the 
duty of distribution ; and this was accordingly done. 

They cruised along the coast till the 12th April, 
taking several prizes. One of these was unlucky, for 
there exists among the State Papers a petition addressed 
to Queen Anne in 1710 or 1711 by the merchant 
owners of Bristol, appealing for efforts to be made to 
^ See pages 102-3. 



secure the exchange or release of Simon Hatley, mate of 
the “ Duchess,” and other members of a prize crew, 
who, going on shore for provisions, had been caught 
by the Spaniards and thrown into Lima prison, “ where 
they now are, together with several others of your 
Majesty’s subjects formerly belonging to ships under 
Captain Dampiere’s command.” Hatley had succeeded 
in smuggling a letter out of prison to his owners. This 
letter, which is dated November 6, 1709, concludes as 
follows : “ Some of our countrymen that were here 
before we came, they have made turn their religion. 
We live a sorrowful life among them, and always plagued 
by the Fathers, putting us in irons and in the dungeon 
to make us turn, but we are resolved to dye first. I and 
one more they have had to the gallows, hanged until we 
were almost strangled before they cutt us down, this is 
what offers from, Gentlemen, your most humble Servant, 
Simon Hatley.” 

Woodes Rogers now decided that, while waiting for 
the sailing of the Manila galleon, they could not occupy 
their time better than by an attack on the important 
town of Guayaquil, which seems to have been a favourite 
objective with the English privateers. Anchoring among 
the palm-clad islands at the mouth of the river, as 
Dampier had done so many years before, they held a 
meeting, and, according to their own peculiar custom, 
drew up an elaborate set of regulations for the attack on 
shore. Cooke says that “ a dispute arising who should 
command in chief ashore, at length it was agreed that 
Captain Rogers and Captain Courtney should each of 
them command a company of seamen, and Captain 
Dover a company of the land-men ; that Captain Dover 
should give the word the first night, and the other two 
captains in their turns.” This clumsy arrangement seems 
to have worked fairly well. It was carefully explained 
to the men, who by now were spoiling for a fight. 



On the 15th they intercepted a French-built ship from 
Lima, which was re-christened the “ Marquis,” and 
placed under the command of Cooke. On board of her 
they found 500 bales of Papal Bulls, 1 6 reams in a bale, 
and a quantity of bones in small boxes, “ ticketed with 
the names of Romish saints, some of which had been 
dead 7 or 800 years.” This was disappointing plunder 
for a Protestant privateer, and Rogers threw most of it 
overboard, “ to make room for better goods.” In the 
meantime they “ rowed and towed ” up the river for 
Guayaquil, and, landing at a village on the way, found 
there letters to the local governor in which he was 
warned that an English ship was at sea under the 
redoubtable “ Captain Dampier.” As it happened, 
Dampier had captured this very village on the occasion 
of his last visit to Guayaquil. 

Rogers immediately took measures to spread among 
the local Indians an exaggerated version of the story of 
a “ squadron ” under Dampier. He also saw that there 
was no time to be lost. But when they arrived outside 
Guayaquil, they found, as so many English invaders had 
before them, that the alarm was already given. Beacons 
were blazing on the hills, the bells of the town were 
ringing, and volleys of musketry, fired blindly into the 
night, conveyed a message of defiance from the inhabit- 
ants. It was a question what to do next, and Dampier 
was consulted. He said that the buccaneers “ never 
attacked any large place after it was alarmed ” — he 
must surely have meant that they never did so without 
regretting it ! — and Captain Dover agreeing with him, 
it was decided to remain in their boats in the river, and 
send a messenger to the town demanding ransom. 

It is hard to believe that Dampier can have favoured 
this latter course, which he had so strongly opposed on 
former occasions. In the present instance, the usual 
result followed : the Spaniards prevaricated while they 



strengthened their defences. But Woodes Rogers was 
not to be trifled with. At the appointed hour he 
suddenly broke off negotiations, and with seventy men 
landed and attacked the town. The Spanish gunners, 
with more resolution than they usually displayed, stuck 
to their pieces till the English were “ within pistol shot.” 
One of them, an Irishman, continued firing even then, 
till he fell covered with wounds ; but their shooting 
must have been extraordinarily erratic, for only two were 
killed on the English side. Dampier was now put in 
charge of the guns, and he quickly turned them on the 
streets of the town, which were soon emptied of all but 
the English. 

It was, in fact, a handsome victory. And the best of 
it was that the Spaniards presently changed their minds 
about the ransom, and, rather than see their city ruined, 
sent Rogers a lump sum of thirty thousand pieces of 
eight. With which he and his merry men marched 
down to their boats again, with colours flying and 
trumpets sounding cheerfully. On their way down the 
river, they looted several houses on the banks, and it 
was at one of these that “ Mr. Sellkirk, the late Governor 
of Juan Fernandez,” distinguished himself by his excep- 
tionally “ civil behaviour.” For being sent, with a Mr. 
Connely, to search some charming young ladies who 
were suspected of having hidden jewellery under their 
clothes, he performed the task with such modesty as to 
occasion the fair captives “ no uneasiness nor surprise.” 
As Selkirk and Connely were both ” young men,” 
Woodes Rogers expresses the hope that “ the Fair Sex 
will make ’em a grateful return when we arrive in Great 

As all the “ houses up the river were full of women,” 
and “ every pair of legs was spiralled with necklaces and 
gold chains,” the privateers added considerably to their 
wealth before they got out to sea. Snuff-boxes, jewelled 



sword-hilts, plate, silks and laces must have made a gay- 
display in the cabin, when the appointed representatives 
of the officers and of the seamen assembled there to 
value the spoil. Already Dampier must have felt that 
this was a more promising voyage than any with which 
he had recently been associated.^ There was only one 
fly in the ointment : the fatal miasma from the river 
marshes had proved more dangerous than the Spanish 
guns, and some kind of malignant fever was knocking 
the English sailors down like ninepins ; so that it was 
decided to make for the island of Gorgona (off the coast 
of Colombia) and try a change of diet and of air, before 
cruising for the Manila ship. Courtney was taken ill, 
and Dover “ went on board the ‘ Duchess ’ to prescribe 
for him.” 

The next excitement was a rumour that the Spanish 
prisoners and the negroes on board were plotting to 
“ murder the English and run away with the ship in the 
night.” Woodes Rogers examined the Spaniards, who 
strenuously denied it. Some of the negroes owned to 
a vague knowledge of a plot, but not till they had been 
threatened with torture to make them speak. On June 
13th, 1709, they anchored off Gorgona, and settled down 
for a longish stay while they recovered their healths, and 
refitted their prize, the “ Marquis.” Woodes Rogers 
remarks that “ Captain Dampier has been here several 
times, but never rode where we did, which is the best 
and only good road in the island.” Dampier, at this 
time, appears to have been on board the “ Duchess.” 
“ My pilot Dampier forsook me,” says Woodes Rogers, 
though for what reason is not clear. Among their 
prisoners “ was a gentlewoman and her family,” including 
an eldest daughter, “ a pretty young woman of about 

^ When they reached the island of Gorgona, Cooke “ reckoned the 
value we had then aboard for the owners in gold, plate and jewels 
amounted to about £20,000 and in goods £60,000.” 



eighteen,” who was newly married, and had with her 
her husband, who “ showed evident marks of jealousy, 
the Spaniard’s epidemic disease.” So Woodes Rogers, 
with a touch of humour, put them in charge of his third 
lieutenant, Glendall, “ for being above fifty years of age, 
he appeared to be the most secure guardian to females.” 

On the 7th August, they sailed from the island in 
search of the Manila ship.. They set their Spanish 
prisoners ashore on the mainland ; but Woodes Rogers 
assembled the negroes, and, after offering them their 
freedom if they would agree to fight for him, “32 of 
them immediately promised to stand to it as long as the 
best Englishmen, and desired they might be improved in 
the use of arms.” After which they drank the inevitable 
“ dram ” all round. A few days later, a sham fight 
was staged between the “ Duke ” and the “ Duchess,” 
the latter flying Spanish colours for the occasion. And 
everyone, from the captains down to the humblest fore- 
mast hand, “ acted the same part he ought to have done 
in earnest, firing with ball excepted.” Even the surgeons 
had “ patients ” in the hold, splashed with red lead and 
water to simulate blood. The negroes must have been 
vastly edified by this “ agreeable diversion,” as Woodes 
Rogers calls it. 

As things turned out, they had plenty of time for 
martial exercises, for the Manila ship persistently failed 
to come in sight.^ More agreements about “ plunder ” 
were drawn up, and a painful example was made of 
“ one of the ‘ Duchess’s ’ black nymphs,” who had 
proved to be a lady of easy virtue. “ This I mention,” 
says Woodes Rogers, “ to satisfy the censorious that we 
don’t countenance lewdness, and that we took those 
women aboard only because they spoke English and 

^ The great treasure galleon had not been captured by an Englishman 
since Thomas Cavendish took it in the year 1587. The next success 
after Woodes Rogers’s was to be that of Anson in 1743. 




begged to be admitted for laundresses, cooks and seam- 
stresses.” This particular negress was whipped at the 
capstan. In the course of their wanderings, they sailed 
over the very spot where Dampier had unsuccessfully 
engaged the Manila ship in the “ St. George,” and our 
hero was in frequent consultation with the other captains. 
Once or twice we find him at fault as to their exact 
whereabouts, but Woodes Rogers adds that he could 
always be relied upon to recognize a place when he got 
ashore. His transfer to the “ Duchess ” seems to have 
caused no ill-feeling. On one of the islands of the 
Marias group Dampier found a human skull, which he 
told Woodes Rogers must belong to an unfortunate 
Indian, who, with one companion, was left there by 
Swan in 1685 ; “for victuals being scarce with these 
buccaneers, they would not carry the poor Indians any 
farther, but after they had served their turns left them 
to make a miserable end on a desolate island.” The 
long wait began to affect the men’s behaviour, and regula- 
tions were passed which “ prohibited all playing at cards 
or dice ” aboard the ships. 

On the 20th December, they were cruising off Cape 
St. Lucas, the southernmost point of California. Every- 
one was feeling “ melancholy and dispirited ” ; for all 
hope of intercepting the treasure ship had been for the 
moment abandoned, and the committee had already 
passed a resolution to steer for the island of Guacu and 
replenish their stock of food, which was running low. 
The “ Marquis ” had put into an adjacent harbour to 
refit for the voyage. This was the position, when, at about 
9 o’clock in the morning, “ to our great and joyful 
surprise . . . the man at the masthead cried out he saw 
a sail, bearing west half south of us, distant about 
7 leagues.” The “ Duke ” immediately hoisted her 
ensign, and bore away in pursuit, the “ Duchess ” fol- 
lowing. For a long time they were in doubt as to 


whether this was indeed their prey, for the wind dropped, 
and there was a dead calm all the rest of that day. 
However, Woodes Rogers sent off an armed pinnace, 
which approached near to the chase, and returned to 
him in the evening with the news that this was no other 
than the Manila ship — though, as it turned out after- 
wards, not the “ admiral,” but his consort, of slightly 
smaller size. 

Two pinnaces were sent to “ tend her all night, and 
keep showing false fires so that we might know where- 
abouts they and the chase was.” And at daybreak, the 
“ Duke ” being now close up, Woodes Rogers “ ordered 
a large Kettle of Chocolate to be made for our ship’s 
company (having no spirituous liquor to give them) ; 
then we went to Prayers, and before we had concluded 
were disturbed by the Enemy’s firing at us.” After all, 
it was a short and sharp engagement. The “ Duchess ” 
was to leeward, and having little wind, could not come 
up, but the “ Duke ” poured in broadside after broad- 
side, with volleys from the small arms, to which the 
Spaniards replied, “ but did not ply their great guns 
half so fast as we.” Finally, just as the “ Duchess ” 
was coming into action, the “ Duke ” got across the 
enemy’s bows, and began to rake her, whereupon she 
hauled down her flag. 

It was a great prize, the richest captured by any 
English ship for many a long year. She was named the 
“ Nuestra SeSora de la Encarnacidn Desengafio,” mount- 
ing twenty guns and twenty swivels, and carrying 193 
men. She had about twenty casualties, and the “ Duke ” 
only two ; but of these one was Woodes Rogers himself, 
who was shot through the left cheek, the bullet carrying 
away part of his upper jaw, so that his teeth fell out 
upon the deck. He continued to direct the action, 
though he was unable to speak, and had to give his 
orders in writing. That night he swallowed something 



which he believed to be part of his jaw-bone, and there- 
after began to mend slowly, though he was in great 
pain, and could take only liquid food and that with 
difficulty. Yet the indomitable man continued to attend 
committee meetings as though nothing had happened. 

Of these there were more than usual, for there was a 
certain amount of jealousy among the officers of the 
“ Duchess ” and the “ Marquis ” as a result of the 
“ Duke’s ” single-handed victory over the Manila ship. 
Now that it was clear that there were really two of these 
treasure galleons (a thing they had not expected), the 
“Duchess” and the “ Marquis ” demanded the right 
to go out alone in search of the other one. And this 
they carried by resolution, in spite of the protests of 
Woodes Rogers, who could only set his arguments down 
in writing. Dampier, as an officer of the “ Duchess,” 
voted with the rest. The condition of Woodes Rogers’s 
health may have been a leading consideration with those 
who voted against him ; but it is clear that he took the 
adverse decision very much to heart. 

So the “ Duke,” with her wounded commander, 
remained in harbour, while the “ Duchess ” and the 
“ Marquis ” put out to sea again to find the Manila 
“ admiral.” Their luck held. On Christmas Day, 
very early in the morning, when only a few hours out, 
they sighted a big Spanish galleon, and crowded on sail 
to overtake her. It was about 2 a.m. and still dark. 
The “ Marquis ” was a “ cranky ” sailer, and the 
“ Duchess ” was the first to come up with the chase. 
Cooke, from his position in the “ Marquis,” gives an 
admirable account of what he could see of the fight. 
Staring out through the darkness, he could observe the 
flash of the guns and hear their roar, but could not 
determine what was happening. Towards dawn the 
noise of battle subsided, but an occasional shot indicated 
that the Spaniard had not yet surrendered. As a matter 



of fact, Courtney, in the “ Duchess,” had been compelled 
to draw off to repair his damaged masts and rigging. 

In the grey morning light they saw the Spaniard’s 
yellow flag, and recognized her for the “ admiral ” of 
the Manila fleet, and a hoarse cheer burst from their 
throats as they strained every nerve to draw nearer to 
the scene of action. At the same time, the “ Duke,” 
with every sail set, was seen moving out from behind the 
headland, coming to their assistance. Woodes Rogers 
also had heard their guns and seen lights out at sea ; 
and though he was still unable to speak, and his ofiicers 
had urged him to stay behind, he was now coming out 
to take his share in the fight. 

There was a small breeze from the E.S.E. and the 
“ Marquis ” and “ Duchess ” crept slowly up to the 
gigantic Spaniard, and began again to batter her sides. 
“ Our ships,” says Cooke, “ looked like small barks to 
the enemy.” They sailed round and round her, pouring 
in volleys. The “ Marquis ” was the first to arrive, 
and her men gave three lusty cheers before firing the 
first broadside of the fight. The Spaniard’s decks were 
now seen to be crowded with men, and she answered 
them defiantly, so that the English began to suffer 
severely in their masts and rigging. The Spanish 
gunnery, as in the previous fight, was slow but accurate : 
they had a ship of above nine hundred tons, equipped 
with “ false decks ” to resist the round shot, and forty 
guns of a heavier calibre than those of the privateers. 
The “ Marquis,” indeed, had only eighteen guns, so 
that, as Cooke remarks, “ if the enemy had fired at the 
hull as he did at the mast and rigging, he must have 
shattered us almost to pieces.” The “ Marquis ” and 
the “ Duchess ” engaged her one after another all that 
day, firing so many shots into her towering sides that 
towards evening the “ Marquis ” began to run short of 
ammunition, and fell astern with the “ Duchess ” in 



order to borrow a fresh supply. Cooke went on board 
his consort, and found her “ much disabled in her masts 
and rigging and seven men killed.” He and Courtney 
agreed “ to yard-arm and yard-arm with the enemy in 
the morning,” and further to fire guns at intervals all 
night “ to annoy the enemy and to give the ‘ Duke ’ 
notice where we were, keeping out lights.” 

While the two officers sat in conference in the cabin, 
a boat arrived from the “ Duke ” asking for news. 
Woodes Rogers was now close up with them, and he hints 
pretty plainly in his book that, if he had been allowed 
to accompany them in the beginning, the three ships 
must have carried the Spaniard at the first attack, before 
she had recovered from her surprise. With daylight 
the desperate fight was renewed. Cooke says : “ Captain 
Courtney in the ‘Dutchess’ stood close up, gave his 
broadsides and volleys, and then ran ahead. The 
‘ Marquis ’ coming up under her quarter did the like, 
and the ‘ Duke ’ next performed the same along her lee 
side. We kept raking of her, fore and aft, and then 
wared to get out of the way of the ‘ Duke’s ’ shot, still 
firing, as did the other ships.” 

The ” Duke ” was unlucky — or else too impetuous — 
for she got so close that the Spaniards were able to throw 
their stinkpots on board — evil-smelling contrivances made 
of saltpetre, sulphur, assafoetida, arsenic, sublimate of 
mercury, and Goodness knows what else. One of them 
exploded some gunpowder on the quarter-deck, causing 
great havoc, and forcing the “ Duke ” to withdraw 
temporarily from the fight. The “ Duchess ” also had 
to lay by “ to stop her leaks and secure her foremast, 
being much disabled,” with twenty-five casualties on 
board. The “ Marquis ” carried on alone, and received 
some stinkpots in her turn, which set part of the ship 
afire (“ but we soon put it out ”) and got onto Cooke’s 
fine clothes, so that “ I stank several days intolerably.” 



It must have been upsetting to that dignity of his ! 
When darkness fell, the three captains met on board the 
“ Duke ” in anxious consultation. Woodes Rogers had 
been wounded again, “ so that I could not stand, but 
lay on my back in a great deal of misery, part of my 
heel being struck out, and all under my ankle cut above 
half through.” 

Finally they called the inevitable committee meeting, 
which decided that there was “ no probability ” of taking 
this powerful ship, and that it was better to leave her and 
” secure the prize we have already took.” So ended a 
memorable sea-rfight. Cooke says that on the “ Marquis ” 
alone “ we fired above 300 great shot, about 50 cross- 
bars and 2 great chests of steel bars, beside abundance of 
partridge small shot and above 9 barrels of powder.” 
He has the grace to add that “ to give the enemy theii 
due they defended themselves very well, but we migh 
as well have fought a castle of fifty guns ” as this “ pro- 
digious strong ” ship. It transpired afterwards that 
there was a special crew of 600 men on board the 
Spaniard, hurriedly recruited for the occasion, when it 
was learned that the terrible Dampier was again in 
those seas. 

But the privateers were already rich, and under a less 
energetic commander than Woodes Rogers (who made 
a characteristically rapid recovery from his injuries) they 
might well have felt that there was nothing more for 
them to do. Even Woodes Rogers and Dampier clearly 
regarded the circumnavigation of the globe, which they 
were now about to complete (Dampier for the third 
time) merely as the most convenient way of getting back 
to England. Woodes Rogers frankly apologizes for 
including in his book a brief description of “ this long 
and tedious passage.” Dampier could have kept our 
interest alive in his old effortless way ; but unfortunately 
he had long ceased to make entries in his journal, and 



even he, if we may judge from his occasional appear- 
ances in Woodes Rogers’s record, was as nearly bored 
by the latter end of this voyage as by any he ever took 
part in. ' 

They sailed first to the island of Guam, in the Ladrones, 
and there Woodes Rogers displayed his accustomed tact 
in getting upon almost as friendly terms with the local 
Spaniards as he had with the Portuguese at Grande. 
He entertained the Governor and leading residents on 
the “ Duke ” with “ musick and our sailors dancing.” 
But though they might dance on occasions, the men 
were, in fact, “ fed up,” and their commander found 
them more difficult to deal with than any Spaniards. In 
a valiant attempt to cheer them up, he had ceremoniously 
observed St. Valentine’s Day, drawing up “ a list of the 
fair ladies in Bristol that were in any ways related to or 
concerned in the ships,” and sending for the officers to 
his cabin, where everyone drew a name “ and drank the 
lady’s health in a cup of punch and to a happy sight of 
’em all.” 

But nothing could make up for the reduction in the 
daily rations, which now became necessary, and we get 
the impression that they sighted Guam only just in time. 
From Guam they sailed to Batavia, stopping at several 
islands and suppressing several mutinies among them- 
selves on the way. At intervals the ship’s doctor would 
perform operations on Woodes Rogers’s throat, re- 
moving pieces of broken jaw-bone and “ musket-shots.” 
Also “ I had several pieces of my foot and heel bone 
taken out.” After refreshing themselves at Batavia, 
they made sail across the Indian Ocean for the Cape of 
Good Hope. They had sold the leaky “ Marquis ” to 
an Englishman at Batavia, and were now only three 
ships in company, the “ Duke ” and “ Duchess ” and 
the captured Spanish galleon, which they had renamed 
the “ Batchelor.” At the Cape, they waited from 



December 29th, 1710, to April 5th, 1711, and then 
sailed with the regular Dutch convoy for Holland and 
England. It was a wise move, considering the wealth 
they had on board, and Rogers and Courtney must have 
felt relieved when, having rounded the Shetlands, they 
anchored safely in the Texel on the 23rd July. From 
thence, after some delay, English men-of-war convoyed 
them to the Downs, where they arrived on October 14th 
after a voyage of more than three years. 



IE cruise of the “ Duke ” and 
“ Duchess ” was one of the most suc- 
cessful ever undertaken by English 
privateers. We can only hope that 
the citizens of Bristol, who stood to 
profit handsomely by it, gave Woodes 
Rogers and his men a fitting reception 
on their return. In money and goods, 
the total value of the booty available for distribution is 
stated to have reached the impressive figure of 170,000. 
Of this, the Bristol merchants, who had financed the 
voyage, took half, and there was a substantial allotment 
(probably ;^i 4,000) to Woodes Rogers himself, who 
now became a comparatively wealthy man. He formed 
friendships with Sir Hans Sloane, Sir Robert Southwell 
(to whom Dampier no doubt introduced him), and other 
men of distinction, and in 1717 he was in a position 
• to acquire by lease the quit-rents and royalties of the 
Bahama Islands, of which he was made Governor in the 
same year. His story of his voyage round the world 
was published in 1712, and achieved a success only 
second to that of Dampier’s books. Woodes Rogers 
well deserved these rewards. His voyage, as has been 
recently pointed out,^ was in many respects more note- 

1 By Mr. G. E. Manwaring in his introduction to a new edition of 
Woodes Rogers’s Cruising Voyage 'Round the IVorld (Cassell: 1928). 
He adds that two large silver candlesticks taken on this voyage are now in 
Bristol Cathedral. 

Prom the engravingby IF. Skelton njterthe pointing by Hogarth 



worthy even than Anson’s thirty years later ; for whereas 
Anson was in command of six ships of the Royal Navy 
and two victualling ships, all fitted out for him by the 
Admiralty, and lost every one of them on the way, 
except his flagship, Woodes Rogers brought both his 
little privateers safely into their home port. We part 
regretfully with this debonair commander. He was to 
have many more adventures, and perform many dashing 
exploits before his death in the Bahamas in 1732 ; but 
none so completely successful and so deservedly famous 
as this voyage in which Dampier piloted him round the 
world. The two men, in fact, so different in gifts and 
in character, made a remarkably fine combination. 

But when all these prior claims had been satisfied, 
there was still a large amount of prize-money left over 
for distribution among the officers and men of the 
“ Duke ” and “ Duchess.” Dampier’s share, we may 
be quite certain, was more than sufiicient to have enabled 
him to spend the few remaining years of his life in com- 
fort. Unfortunately, he did not live to receive it. Before 
the distribution was made, he had gone on the last of 
all his voyages. Perhaps we may be allowed to express 
the hope that this time it was not a “ warm ” one ! 

Until three years ago, the state of Dampier’s finances 
after his retirement from the sea was a subject of contro- 
versy. Many of his early biographers, who ought to 
have known better, had hurriedly scratched in the 
familiar pathetic picture of a grey-haired genius left to 
die in a garret by his ungrateful country ; while others, 
more conscientious, had replied by pointing out that 
even if Dampier never actually handled his share of the 
prize-money, he could surely, on so good a security, 
have borrowed enough to keep him in reasonable 
comfort for the remaining three and a half years of his 
life. All this, however, was conjecture. But in 1925, 
Dr. B. H. M. Rogers, to whose researches I have 



already referred/ sent a second communication to the 
Manner’s Mirror (volume ii), in which he described a 
further MS. document lent to him by Mr. Goldney, of 
Corsham, which, when compared with certain papers in 
the Library of Congress, Washington, provides a full 
and apparently exhaustive statement of Dampier’s 
financial position at this time. What is even more 
important, it gives us a glimpse of his life, and indicates 
why he now had to reside permanently in town. 

The Goldney MS. consists of the report, dated May 9, 
1719 (four years after Dampier’s death), of the Master 
in Chancery who had been appointed to inquire into the 
accounts of the voyage of the “ Duke ” and “ Duchess,” 
and endeavour to arrive at an equitable, if somewhat 
belated, settlement. These accounts had been the 
subject of several law-suits by members of the crew and 
others, and it is clear that the lawyers had been getting 
their share, whoever else went begging. What Dampier 
demanded was “ eleven shares equal in value with those 
due to the ship’s company,” and a further “ i/i6th part 
of the nett profits.” He also claimed interest on this 
sixteenth part of the profits, to date from the day when 
the owners had divided their portion among themselves 
without including him. We do not know what the 
eleven shares would be worth ; but we do know that 
one-sixteenth of the net profits of this wonderful voyage 
would be well over without including interest. 

So that Dampier was asking for a substantial sum. 

He did not get it. Nor did poor Grace Mercer, his 
executrix and residuary legatee. Indeed the whole pur- 
port of the report of the Master in Chancery is that he 
has disallowed the executrix’s claims. He abruptly dis- 
misses all suggestions of interest ; and he fails to find 
“ any such agreement ” as is alleged by Dampier’s repre- 
sentative in regard to the one-sixteenth part. He adds : 

^ Page 201. 



“ The owners also offered before me to pay him 
(Dampier) j^5oo more than he reed. [So he had received 
something !] but said Dampier refused such offer unless 
they paid him down ;^iooo.” We begin to perceive in 
what manner Dampier spent the remaining years of his 
life. It was a great age for litigation. The “ before 
me ” indicates that both he and the owners’ solicitors 
had been privately interviewed by the Master, with a 
view to some composition, but that Dampier’s obstinacy 
had made it impossible to settle out of Court. Like 
many unbusinesslike people, who are careless about 
money (though they may, on occasions, enjoy their 
“ golden dreams ”), he could be stubborn enough when 
he thought he was being cheated. We can see him 
confronting the lawyers, his untidy hair about his eyes, 
his head thrown back, his underlip more prominent than 
ever. A thousand pounds or nothing 1 Nothing it was. 

But we are not to suppose that Dampier never made 
anything by the Woodes Rogers voyage. On the con- 
trary, we find among these papers a schedule setting 
forth the various payments made on account to Dampier 
in the course of the voyage ; and the still larger sums 
which he had received since the return to England. 
This schedule is as follows : 

Captn. Wm. Dampier 

Cash reed, of Captn. Rogers 
do. of Aid. Bachelor comm. . 
Cloathes at Cork . 

Cash etc. of Capt. Courtney 
200 dolls at Batavia @ S/- 
200 more at do @ 4/ 

Cash in Holland of Courtney . 
6th part of (undecipherable) 

Cash of Mr. Corsley 

£ s- d. 

45 o o 
II 00 
8 17 II 
53 4 10 
50 o o 
40 o o 

8 4 
19 3 
611 10 o 

Carry forward . ;£82i 0 4 



Brought forward 

Cash of Master 
pd. Executrix of do. 
plunder money 
Agency money 

0 4 

500 0 o 

20 0 0 

Totle Mo. reed, per Damp. . ;^i35i 14 

That is to say, something over a hundred pounds in the 
early part of the voyage, ninety at Batavia, and eleven 
hundred odd since the return to England — all this, of 
course, to be set off against his claims. 

At first sight it looks as though Dampier had been 
having a gay time at Batavia — deliberately cutting a 
dash, perhaps, in a part of the world where he had 
previously been known as a needy adventurer. But we 
find in Woodes Rogers’s narrative that there was a 
general share-out of “ plunder ” at this port (Dampier 
was one of the judges appointed to decide which part 
of the cargo was “ plunder ” and which was the owners’ 
property), and also that an allotment of money was there 
made to the officers, to enable them to equip themselves 
for the homeward voyage, Courtney acting as treasurer. 
Dampier’s share was two hundred pieces of eight. 

What is quite clear is that he cannot, on this occasion, 
have landed in England penniless, according to his 
former habit ; and, further, that he drew about £,1200 
from the owners (the Mr. Corsley, mentioned in the 
schedule, was the owners’ solicitor) after his return. It 
is, therefore, certain that he must, at any rate, have lived 
like a gentleman during the remaining years of his life. 

It is true, also, that, like most gentlemen of his period, 
he died in debt. Another schedule attached to the 
Master’s report gives details of his debts amounting to 

^ I am aware that this does not add up quite correctly. The 
arithmetic is that of the Master in Chancery. 



;^677 1 7s. id., most of it money borrowed on his “ expec- 
tations ” from his friend, Edward Southwell, a certain 
Capt. Humphreys, and others.^ But there is nothing 
unusual in that, though it may have been a disappointing 
legacy for Grace Mercer. Dampier had good reason 
to suppose that he would presently be able to pay these 
debts in full. Unfortunately, we have no evidence to 
show that his executrix ever got another penny, beyond 
the ;^2o mentioned in the schedule as having been paid 
over to her. 

He was not without other resources. The “ little 
estate ” in the West Country which he had purchased 
while in Jamaica, had probably been sold before the 
voyage of the “ St. George.” Dampier was induced to 
make a considerable personal contribution towards the 
cost of that voyage, and in order to do so he had been 
compelled to revoke certain financial arrangements which 
he had made through his friend, Southwell, for the 
support of his wife Judith ; so that Judith was left 
with only his pay from the Customs while he was away. 
It seems unlikely that he can then have possessed the 
estate. On the other hand, there is no reason to suppose 
that his salary from the Customs, which was in the 
nature of a pension and had been paid uncomplainingly 
by the Government during his two long absences, should 
not have continued down to the day of his death. Judith, 
his wife, was now dead, for by his last will he revoked 
a previous bequest to her made at some date before 
1703. His expenses as a widower would not be great, 
since he apparently had no children. 

Finally, there were his books, which were still selling 
well. A second edition of the Voyage to New Holland 
had appeared while he was away with Woodes Rogers, 

^ Dr. Rogers is quite wrong in supposing these people to be professional 
money-lenders. But one creditor, Capt. Richard Newton, held some of 
Dampier’s furniture at the time of his death. 



while the New Voyage had reached its fifth edition in 
1 703, and was to go into a sixth two years after he died. 
Whatever arrangements he had made with Knapton, his 
publisher, there must surely have been another source 
of revenue here. 

In September, 1714, three years after his return from 
h is last voyage, Dampier celebrated his sixty-third birth- 
day. He was not an old man as we reckon nowadays, 
but his health had already broken down. Forty-two 
years of seafaring in those hard times was about as much 
as any man’s constitution could stand. He was living 
in the parish of St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, near Old 
Jewry, and was apparently being looked after by his 
cousin, Grace Mercer, to whom he left the greater part 
of his property. It is typical of the difficulties con- 
fronting the biographer of a man like Dampier that he 
has told us nothing whatever about this cousin — the one 
woman, besides his wife, who ever had anything to do 
with his affairs. We may guess that she was the most 
important female influence in his life — but we are only 
guessing. That she had been with him for some time 
is clearly stated in his will ; but whether that merely 
means that his illness had been a long one we cannot 

The old sailor’s health grew steadily worse, and on 
November 29th he decided to make his last will and 
testament, which may now be seen in Somerset House. 
It begins thus : 

“ I, Capt. William Dampier, of London, Mariner, being 
diseased and weak in body, but of sound and perfect 
mind and memory (praised be Gk)d therefore) considering 
the frailty and uncertainty of this transitory life, and 
that as nothing is more certain than Death, so nothing 
is more uncertain than the time of Man’s dissolution, 
do therefore make and ordain this my last will and testa- 



ment in manner following, viz: first and principally I 
recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God, 
my Creator, hoping by and through the merits, death 
and passion of my ever blessed Redeemer, to enjoy 
eternall life ; and my body I commit to the earth to be 
decently buried at the discretion of my executrix, herein- 
after named ; and as touching that worldly estate where- 
with it has pleased God to bless me . . 

And he then proceeds to will that his estate be divided 
into ten equal parts, nine of which are to go to his 
cousin, “ Grace Mercer, of London, spinster,” and one 
part to his “ loving brother, George Dampier, of Porton, 
near Breadport, Dorset.” All his “ goods and house- 
hold stuff,” whether in the hands of Captain Newton, 
“ of Eagle Court, in the Strand,” or of Thomas Jones, 
or elsewhere, went to Grace Mercer. 

You cannot sentimentalize over Dampier — ^not even 
if you have grown to like and admire him as much as I 
have in the past few months. He himself would have 
resented it as an intrusion. He had a sort of natural 
delicacy of mind, an “ exquisite refinement,” as Coleridge 
says ; so that I can imagine nothing more distasteful 
to him than the kind of pen-picture one is tempted to 
draw — the mighty voyager, the greatest sailor of his age 
brought to a stand at last, the grizzled head that has 
felt the suns of every continent in the world, from the 
West Indies to Cochin China, bowed feebly over the 
parchment, while his shaking fingers, probably guided 
by a woman’s hand, seek to add his signature to the last 
words he will ever write. But he does not want us 
there ; and we, who owe so much to him, and the 
generations yet unborn who will read his incomparable 
Voyages with delight, can at least respect his feelings. 
Let us softly close the door ! There is no more to say 
about the life of William Dampier, except that he died 




early in March, ^ I7i5) ^.nd was buried no one knows 

But of Dampier, the writer, there are still a few words 
to say. There never was a more difficult writer to edit, 
and it is quite impossible that in the few passages which 
I have been able to quote from his works — though 
carefully chosen, and all of them highly characteristic — 
any really adequate idea of his extraordinarily high quality 
can have been conveyed to the reader. Harris, one of 
his early editors, made the absurd mistake of regarding 
Dampier as “ prolix ” and even “ obscure,” simply 
because he was long (Harris prefers Funnell, who is 
“ better digested ” and “ may be read with more satis- 
faction ” !). He accordingly gets to work on Dampier 
with the pruning-knife, with the result that all the 
charming, convincing detail, which is the very secret of 
his genius, disappears, leaving a bare skeleton of narra- 
tive. That is a difficulty (though Harris never saw it) 
which must confront everyone who attempts to write a 
biography of Dampier. It has been my object to tell 
the story of his life, not to summarize his writings ; and 
I have accordingly endeavoured to keep that story in its 
proper proportions, not allowing undue space to any 
one episode merely because he himself has described it 
at length. 

To appreciate him as a writer, therefore, it is necessary 
to turn to his books, for they cannot be cut or skipped 
or edited without losing their flavour. In a sense they 
are the most revealing part of him. When we think 
that the best thing he ever wrote was produced in the 
intervals of a buccaneering expedition ; when we picture 
him studying a flower or a bird, or taking his observations 
which were presently to recast the map of the Pacific, 
while serving as a foremast hand among a crowd of 
drunken, brawling sailors, we appreciate for the first 
^ His will was proved on the 23rd. 



time what he might have done for literature and science 
if Fate had cast him for an easier part in early life. He 
lived at the very moment when his special talents were 
most in demand. It was during his early manhood that 
Charles II sent Greenville Collins on a seven years’ tour 
in a yacht, in order that the first decent chart might be 
made of the British Isles ! James II was equally inter- 
ested in navigation. Yet Dampier, at the very time 
when he might have been enjoying this high patronage, 
was proving himself the best hydrographer of his age in 
circumstances which could hardly have been more dis- 
couraging. His appeal is not so obvious as that of 
Woodes Rogers, for instance ; he has not the profes- 
sional sparkle of Defoe ; he is emphatically a writer 
who must be read — lived with for a while. And this 
applies particularly to his notes on animal and plant life, 
which are quite delightful to read, but disconcertingly 
difficult to quote with effect. I cannot improve on Mr. 
Masefield’s language. “ Dampier’s work,” he says, 
“ has this supreme merit, that it surveys the lesser 
kingdoms with a calm, equable, untroubled and delighted 

It has been said, on the one hand, that Dampier got 
bis better-educated friends to write-— or at least edit — 
bis books for him, and then took the credit ; and, on 
:he other, that Defoe took his ideas, and even his style, 
Tom Dampier, and rewarded him with sneers instead of 
:hanks. Neither charge bears much examination. I 
aave already touched upon the first. Dampier may have 
;aken advice. He had not the slightest idea that he 
:ould “ write.” He never dreamed that his books would 
■ank as literature. But no one can now read a page 
jf his writings without feeling that the style — ^no less 
:han the facts — ^is his own. 

As for Defoe, it is impossible— or I, at any rate, have 
bund it impossible — ^to discover any passage in his 


244 - 

voluminous works which can fairly be said to have been 
“ cribbed ” from Dampier. It is, indeed, an imperti- 
nence to suggest that he would need to “ crib ” in this 
literal sense. But he did go to Dampier — and to Woodes 
Rogers and to all the buccaneer chroniclers — for his 
“ plots.” That was inevitable, and perfectly justifiable. 
The one passage in Dampier’s writings which seems to 
have made a profound impression upon him was that 
in which our hero, expecting every moment to be 
drowned during his perilous canoe voyage to Sumatra, 
reflects dismally upon his wild and wandering life and 
the dissolute companionship which is all that he had 
known since he left the parental roof in Somersetshire.^ 
Defoe seizes upon that note, and makes it a kind of 
leit-motif, running all the way through his greatest work, 
Robinson Crusoe, and reappearing occasionally in Captain 
Singleton. He is greatly indebted to Dampier for that 
idea ; and of course he was indebted not only to Dampier, 
but to a hundred other adventurers for his facts and his 
local colour. Yet he could write : 

“ It has for some ages been thought so wonderful a 
thing to sail the tour or circle of the globe, that when 
a man has done this mighty feat he presently thinks it 
deserves to be recorded, like Sir Francis Drake’s. So 
as soon as men have acted the sailor, they come ashore 
and write books of their voyage, not only to make a 
great noise of what they have done themselves, but, 
pretending to show the way to others to come after them, 
they set up for teachers and chart-makers to posterity. 
Though most of them have had this misfortune, that 
whatever success they have had in the voyage they have 
had very little in the relation, except it be to tell us that 
a seaman, when he comes to the press, is pretty much 

^ See above, page 134. 


out of his element, and that a very good sailor may make 
but a very indifferent author.” ^ 

Whether or not that was aimed at Dampier personally — 
and it rather looks like it — it was, in the circumstances, 
a shabby, ungentlemanly sneer. But whatever else may 
be said about this great and original genius, no one ever 
accused him of being a gentleman ! The fact that he 
had “ lifted ” one or two ideas from Dampier certainly 
would not predispose him to gratitude. 

I am hardly competent to discuss the scientific value 
of Dampier’s books. Admiral Burney, writing more 
than a century ago,^ observed ; “ It is not easy to name 
another voyager or traveller who has given more useful 
information to the world ; to whom the merchant and 
mariner are so much indebted, or who has communicated 
his information in a more unembarrassed and intelligible 
manner. And this he has done in a style perfectly 
unassuming, equally free from affectation and from the 
most distant appearance of invention.” So every sailor 
has thought of him during two centuries. Cook and 
Philip Carteret, Howe and Nelson have agreed in praising 
his Discourse on Winds^ and other notes on hydrography, 
and in recommending them to the attention of young 
officers. Like his natural history notes, they are full 
and informative, without ever being dull. And I cannot 
resist the temptation to give just one more quotation 
from Dampier’s writings, which affords an excellent 
example of his manner, when seeking to illustrate a 
point of seamanship : 

“ If after the Mizan is hail’d up and furled, if then 
the ship will not wear, we must do it with some Head- 

^ Defoe’s New Voyage Round the World, 

2 A Chronological History of the Discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific 
Ocean, B7 Admiral James Burney. London; 1803-7. 



sail, which yet sometimes puts us to our shifts. As I 
was once in a very violent storm, sailing from Virginia, 
mentioned in my Voyage Round the Worlds we scudded 
before the Wind and Sea some time, with only our bare 
Poles ; and the ship, by the mistake of him that con’d, 
broached to, and lay in the Trough of the Sea ; which 
then went so high that every Wave threatened to over- 
whelm us. And indeed if any of them had broke in on 
our Deck, it might have foundered us. The master, 
whose fault this was, raved liked a Madman, and called 
for an Axe to cut the Mizan Shrouds, and turn the 
Mizan mast overboard ; which indeed might have been 
an expedient thing to bring her to her course ; the 
Captain was also of his Mind. Now our Mainyard and 
Foreyard were lowered upon a Port-last, as we call it, 
that is down pretty nigh the Deck, and the Wind blew 
so fierce that we did not dare to shew any Head sail, 
for they must have blown away if we had, neither could 
all the men in the ship have furled them again ; there- 
fore we had no hope of doing it that way. I was at 
this time on the Deck with some others of our Men ; 
and among the rest one Mr. John Smallbone, who was 
the main instrument at that time of saving us. Come, 
said he to me, let us go a little way up the Fore Shrouds, 
it may be that that may make the Ship wear ; for I have 
been doing it before now. He never tarried for an 
Answer, but run forward presently, and I followed him. 
We went up the Shrouds Half-mast up, and there we 
spread abroad the Flaps of our Coats, and presently the 
ship wore. I think we did not stay there above 3 
Minutes before we gain’d our point and came down 
again ; but in this time the Wind was got into our 
Mainsail, and had blown it loose ; and tho’ the Main- 
yard was down a Port-last and our Men were got on 
Deck as many as could lye one by another, besides the 
deck full of men, and all striving to furl that Sail, yet 



we could not do it, but were forced to cut it all along 
by the Head rope and so let it fall down on the Deck.” 

Reference has already been made in Chapter IX to 
Dampier’s keen interest in the problem of the variations 
of the compass, and to the importance of his observations 
on this point. While on the “ Roebuck,” it will be 
remembered, he compiled an elaborate table of varia- 
tions, with dates ; but, while offering a few comments 
of his own, he declined, with his usual modesty, to lay 
down any cut-and-dried theory, preferring to leave the 
decision to the scientists, for whom he always shows so 
much respect. Admiral Smyth, a recognized authority, 
makes the comment that, “ though the local magnetic 
attraction in ships had fallen under the notice of seamen, 
he [Dampier] was among the first to lead the way to 
its investigation, since the facts that ‘ stximbled ’ him at 
the Cape of Good Hope, respecting the variations of the 
compass, excited the mind of Flinders, his ardent 
admirer, to study the anomaly.” Speaking generally of 
Dampier’s writings, Smyth adds that “ his sterling sense 
enabled him to give the character without the strict 
forms of science to his faithful delineations and physical 
suggestions ; and inductive inquirers have rarely been 
so much indebted to any adventurer whose pursuits were 
so entirely remote from the subjects of their inquiry.” 

About fifty years after Dampier’s death, a critic^ of 
Boswell’s Tour to Corsica remarked unkindly (and very 
foolishly) that the book was a good example of how 
“ any fool may write a most valuable book by chance, 
if he will only tell us what he heard and saw with 
veracity.” No doubt much the same kind of thing was 
said about Dampier in some of the coffee-houses. But 
we, who are confronted with more new books of travel 
every month than the eighteenth century was accustomed 

1 Qta-Y- 



to see in five years, know that the truth is far otherwise. 
We know that the travelled fool never manages to see 
and hear those things that we wish to be told about ; 
or, if he does, he tells of them without a trace of that 
inspired veracity which is so different from mere 
accuracy, and consequently leaves us cold. We know 
that it is not so easy as it sounds to take your readers 
with you in spirit to a country they have never seen, 
and keep them as pleased and excited as though they 
were seeing it all for themselves. And if you con- 
tinually interrupt your narrative in order to discuss 
technical points of navigation, we know that you will 
require literary gifts of a very high order, if you are 
going to score a popular success with your book — as 
Dampier did. In the long list of English travel-writers, 
from the best of Hakluyt, Coryat and the eighteenth 
century to the more studied manner of the Victorians 
and the brilliant impressionism of to-day, a man must 
be of exceptional genius to take a high place. Dampier 
is probably in the first half-dozen. As a travel-writer 
alone, his name deserves to be known wherever our 
language is spoken. 

But I close as I began. If his voyages of discovery 
had been less decisive than they were, if his notions of 
hydrography had been all mistaken, if his prose had 
lacked the natural elegance and virility which so dis- 
tinguishes it and had approximated more to the style of 
plain narrative — even then his story would have been 
tremendously worth telling. He crowded enough inci- 
dent for a dozen adventure books into almost any month 
of his life, and gave it the keen tang of truth which most 
adventure books so deplorably lack. Indeed he lived 
adventure books, and every modern boy between the ages 
of sixteen and sixty ought to know of him, and read 
him, and be thankful. Simply to follow the story of 
his career is to get an almost personal contact with those 



Stirring times, of the wild life of the buccaneers in the 
west, and the romantic beauty of the Spice Islands in 
the east. No one who has not done it can understand. 
It was because Dampier’s career was so typical of this 
adventurous phase in human life, now lost for ever — 
because it was so typical^ not because it or he was excep- 
tional, though in many ways they were — ^that I have 
found his story so fascinating. If there are any dull 
pages in this book, it is my fault, not Dampier’s. 


Anon. The Voyages and Adventures of Capt. Bartholomew Sharp. 
London, 1684. 

Bowen, Frank C. The Sea : Its History and Romance. London, 1924. 

Burney, Admiral James. A chronological history of the discoveries in 
the South Sea or Pacific Ocean. London, 1 803-7. 

Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series : “ unbound papers.” 

Clark Russell, W. William Dampier. London : Macmillan (English 
Men of Action), 1889, 

Cooke, Edward. A Voyage to the South Seas. London, 1712. 

Corbett, Sir Julian. Editorial notes on the Dartmouth Maps of the 
Battle of the Texel. 

Courts-Martial. Official Minutes. Public Record Office. 

Cowley, C. Manuscript journal. Sloane Collection, No. 54. 

Cox, J. Manuscript journal. Sloane Collection, No. 49. 

Dampier, Wm. 

A New Voyage. London : Knapton, 1697. 

Voyages and Discoveries. London ; Knapton, 1699. 

A Voyage to New Holland, Part L London : Knapton, 1703. 

A Voyage to New Holland, Part II. London : Knapton, 1709. 

A Vindication. London, 1707. 

Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe, Captain Singleton, etc. 

De Lussan. Journal of Le Sieur Ravenau de Lussan. Paris, 1689. 
English translation, London, 1699. 

Esquemeling, J. The Buccaneers of America. English translation, 

Evelyn, John. Diary. See also his Numismata, London, 1699. 

Funnell, W. a Voyage Round the World. London: Knapton, 

1 AU Dampicr’s travel writings mentioned in the text, including A Discourse on 
Winds^ A Voyage to Tonquzn, etc., are contained jn one pr other of these volumes. 



Gosse, Philip. The Pirates’ Who’s Who. London; Dulau, 1924. 
My Pirate Library. London, 1926. 

Gray, Sir Albert. Dampier’s “New Voyage Round the World.” 
With an Introduction by Sir Albert Gray, K.C.B., K.G., Pres, of 
the Hakluyt Society. London : The Argonaut Press, 1927. 

Hacke, William. A Collection of Original Voyages. London, 1699. 

Harris, John, D.D. (and Campbell). Navigantium atque Itinerantium. 
London, 1744. 

Kerr, Robert, A General History and Collection of Voyages. London, 

Lang, Andrew. Essays in Little. London : Longmans, Green & Co. 
Mahan, Admiral. The Influence of Sea Power upon History. 

Major, R. H. Early Voyages to Terra Australis. London, 1859. 

Manwaring, G. E. Article in “ The Mariner’s Mirror,” 1924 : The 
Dress of British Seamen. 

Masefield, John. Editorial notes to “ Dampier’s Voyages.” London : 
Grant Richards, 1906. 

Pepys, Samuel. Diary and Correspondence. 

Ringrose, B. The Buccaneers of America, vol. 2. From the original 
journal written by Mr. Basil Ringrose, gent. London, 1684. The 
original MS. is in the Sloane Collection, No. 3820. 

Rogers, Dr. B. M. H. Articles in “ The Mariner’s Mirror ” (Journal 
of the Society for Nautical Research). Vols. 10 and ii. 

Sharp, Bartholomew. Manuscript journal. Sloane Collection, No. 46 a. 

Shelvocke, Capt. George. A Voyage Round the World. London, 

Smyth, Rear-Admiral. Articles in the “ United Service Journal and 
Magazine,” Parts iii and iv, 1 837. 

Wafer, Lionel. A New Voyage and Description, etc. London: 
Knapton, 1699. 

Welbe, John. Answer to the Vindication. London, i7^7* 

WooDEs Rogers. A Cruising Voyage Round the World. London, 


Aborigines, Australian, 127, 174? 
175 * 

Achin, 132, 135, 140. 

Alacranes Islands, 40. 

Alegranze, 162. 

Alvaredo, battle of, 54. 

Amboina, massacre of, 17. 

** Ambrose,” a buccaneer, 129 et seq. 
Anaconda snake, 170. 

Angie de Keys, entertainment at, 215. 
Anne, Queen, 187, 202, 220. 

Antony Caen’s island, 177. 

Arack (drink), 119. 

Arcbembo, Captain, 91. 

Arica, 78, 79, 82, 192. 

Armadillo ships, 73, 77- 
Ascension Island, rescue from, 18 1 ; 
shipwreck at, 180. 

Australia, aborigines of, 127, 1745 
arrival at, 127, 172 5 departure 
from, 175 ; interest in, 155 ; lack 
of water in, 175. 

Avery, the Grand Pirate,” i66. 

Babet, John, 207, 208, 212, 214, 218. 
” Bachelor’s Delight,” 10 1, 103. 
Baffin’s Bay, i. 

Bahia, description of, 168, 169. 

Bailey, Rev. M. R., vii. 

Barbadoes, 28, 47. 

Barnaby, midshipman, 164. 

Batavia, 180. 

“ Batchelor,” 232. 

Beef Island, 48 et seq. 

Bellhash, master of the “ St, George,” 
196, 200, 201. 

Bencoolen, 142 5 flight from, 143 $ 
governor of, 179. 

Blanquila, 96. 

Board of Longitude, 2. 

Bond, English renegade, 100, 108. 
Borthwick, Dr. William, 157, 163, 
166, 184. 

Brand, James, captain’s clerk, 157, 

Buccaneers, acquire taste for choco- 
late, 80, 227 ; dress of, 68, 69 ; 
early exploits of, 59 et seq . ; flags 
of, 61 ; intelligence department of, 
91 ; leadership among, 75, 81 j 
pirates and, 57, 61, 62 ; rum run- 
ners and, 63 ; Sabbatarian prin- 
ciples of, 76, 8r 5 valentines and, 102, 

Buckenham, Captain, 44. 

Burney, Admird, 245. 

Cachao, 136, 137. 

Cackney, Rev. Henry, 12, 13. 
Campbell, Duncan, 47. 

Campeachy Bay, 33, 42- 
Campeachy Town, sack of, 59. 

Cape Horn, 102. 

Cape Verde Islands, 17, 99, 165, 189, 

Carib Indians, 29, 30. 

Cartagena, Our Lady of, 94. 

Cash, Giles, 207, 212. 

Chadwick, R, 157, 183. 

Charles ii. King, 2, 113, 243. 

“ Cinque Ports,” 189 seq. 
Clippington, mate on the “ St. 

George,” 196, 198. 

“ Content,” 28 et seq. 

Cook, Captain Edmund, 64, 69, 73, 
81, 84. 

Cook, Captain James, 3, 7, 114, 1541 





Cook, Captain John, 84, 98, 103, 104, 

Cooke, Captain Edward, 205, 212, 
214, 217, 222, 228 etseq,i 250. 

Coppinger, Herman, 124, 126, 129, 

Corbett, Sir Julian, 23, 25, 250. 

Corsley, solicitor, 237, 238. 

Court-martial, Dampier’s, 182 ; evid- 
ence in, 183 ; points at issue, 185 ; 
verdict in, 186. 

Courtney, Captain Stephen, 208, 209, 
212 et seq,^ 230, 237, 238. 

Cowley, William Ambrosia, 98 et seq,y 

Cox, John, 56, 66, 70, 77 et seq.^ 250. 

Coxon, J., 64, 69, 74, 75, 90, 91. 

Cura^oa, 95. 

Customs, Dampier’s post in, 150. 

“Cygnet,” 105, in, 115, 118, 142; 
Dampier leaves, 130. 

d’ Acosta, John, 51. 

Dampier, Ann, mother of William 
Dampier, ii etseq, 

Dampier, George, father of William 
Dampier, 11 et seq. 

Dampier, George, brother of William 
Dampier, ii, 12, i6, 18, 27, 146. 

Dampier, Judith, wife of William, 63, 
144, ^39- 

Dampier, William, ancestry of, ti et 
seq. 5 appearance of, 3, 6 ; becomes 
privateer, 53 ; birthplace of, 10 5 
buccaneers and, 5 ; character of, 
4 et seq. ; comparison with Defoe, 
134 ; as controversialist, 149 5 
court-martial of, 182, 185, 186 ; 
death of, 241 ; Defoe and, 243 ; 
departure in the “ Roebuck,” 162 5 
education of, 15 ; estimate of, 153 j 
explores New Guinea, 177 et seq. 5 
goes to sea, 15, 16 ; joins buc- 
caneers, 42 5 lands on Nicobar, 
129 ; last days of, 239 5 last voyage 
of, 203 et seq. ; last will of, 240 ; 
legal action against, 201 $ marriage 
of, 63 ; nature notes of, 46, 170, 

172, 243 ; opinion of the Indians, 
52, 87 ; pilot on Swan’s ship, 115 ; 
“ Pirate and Hydrographer,” 4 ; 
post in Customs, 150 ; publishes his 
Voyages^ 149 5 quarrels on his ships, 
190 ; reaches Australia, 172 5 re- 
crosses the Darien Isthmus, 85, 89 ; 
reputation with Spaniards, 202, 
204 ; returns to England, 144, 201, 
233 ; sails for the W. Indies, 28 ; 
sails with Cook, 99 ; sails in the 
“ St. George,” 188 ; scientific re- 
cognition of, 150, 203, 204; sea 
knowledge of, 115 ; share of profits 
in Woodes Rogers’s voyage, 205, 
237 ; at battle of the Texel, 23 ; 
trading voyages in East, 142 ; 
treatment of Lieut. Fisher, 168, 
169 5 uniqueness of, 3 ; his views 
on pirates, 166 ; visits Australia, 
127 5 visits logwood-cutters, 36 et 
seq . ; in Virginia, 96, 97 ; voyage 
to Tonquin, 136 j weaknesses of, 
4, 5, 6 ; as writer, 242. 

Dampier Land, 127. 

Dampier Strait, 178. 

Darien Indians, 68, 75. 

Darien, Isthmus of, 85 5 marches 
across, 68, 87 seq. 

Davis, Edward, 8, 98, loi, 104, in 
et seq. 

Davis, John, 59. 

D’Estrees, Admiral, 19, 22, 24, 95. 

Defoe, Daniel, 134, 243, 250. 

De Lussan, 109, 250. 

De Ruyter, 19 etseq. 

Desertions, method of stopping, 128. 

Dingo, 127, 175. 

Discourse on Winds ^ 47, 152, 203, 245. 

“Discovery,” i, 

Dover, Captain Thomas, 206, 212, 
221, 222, 224. 

Dropsy, cure of, 117. 

“ Duchess,” 206, 208, 209, 213 ; 

mutiny on, 214. 

“ Duke,” 206, 208 et seq . ; crew of, 
207, 208, 209 ; first mutiny on, 
212 5 officers on, 206. 


Dutch, attitude towards English in 
the East, 17, 140, 176 ; peace 
treaty with, 27 ; wars, et seq. 
Dysentery, methods of curing, 121, 

Earning, Captain, 16, 17. 

East Coker, vii, 10, ii, 12, 14, 18, 27, 
a8, 39. 

East Indiamen, arming of, 16. 

Eaton, Captain, 102 et seq.y 199. 
Esquemeling, John, 58 et seq., 250. 
Evelyn, John, 6, 15 1. 

“ Fame,’* 187. 

Fisher, Lieut. George, 157 et seq . ; 
character of, 159 ; at court- 
martial of Dampier, 183, 184 5 
quarrels with Dampier, vi, 159, 168. 
Fishook, Captain, 32. 

Flamingo, description of, 99. 

Fry, Lieut. Robert, 206, 212, 218, 

Funnell, William, 188 et seq,, 21 1, 250 5 
on Portuguese, 189. 

Galapagos Islands, 104, 113. 

“ George,** a logwood -cutter, 47- 
George, Prince of Denmark, 187, 188. 
GlendaU, Lieut., 207, 225. 

Gold, romance of, 56. 

Gopson, 89, 92, 93. 

Gore, Rev. Richard, 12, 13. 

Gorgona Island, 78, 224. 

Gosse, Philip, 109, 251. 

Grande, island of^ 214. 

Gray, Sir Albert, vii, 5, 251. 

Grigson, James, 159, 161, 184. 
Gronet, Captain, loS. 

Guam Island, 119, 232. 

Guayaquil, attacks on, 106, 221. 

Hacke, William, v, 65, 75 et seq, 
(notes), 82, 1 13, 251. 

Hall, Robert, 129 et seq. 

Halley, E., 162, 171. 


Harris, Dr. John, 205, 242, 251. 


Harris, Captain Peter, sen., 64, 69, 74, 
75, 122. 

Harris, Captain Peter, jun., 105, 108. 
Helyar, Cary, 32. 

Helyar, Colonel, 12, 28, 32. 

Hewet, privateer captain, 50, 53. 
Hingson, 89, 92, 93. 

Hispaniola (Haiti), 31, 57. 

Hobby, Captain, 64. 

Holmes, Sir Robert, 18. 

Hubock, Captain Jack,*’ 35, 

Hudsel, Captain, 33 seq. 

Hughes, Jacob, 157, 159, 161, 162, 
165, 172, 174, 176, 177, 179, 181, 
183, 184.^ 

Huxford, Lieut., 190. 

Jamaica, 16, 28, 31 et seq, 

James ii. King, 19, 21, 113, 130, 203. 
Jeoly. See Painted Prince- 
Jigger worm, 47. 

“John and Martha,” r6, 17, 18. 
Journal, beginnings of, 29. 

Juan Fernandez, island of, 103, 19 1, 
217 et seq. 

Kangaroo-rat, 172. 

Kent, Captain, 28 et seq, 

Kidd, Captain, 63, in. 

King Golden Cap, 70, 72. 

Knapton, James, 148, 240. 

Knight, John, 157, 183. 

Ladrones, 1 18. 

Lang, Andrew, 57? ^ 51 * 

La Serena, attack on, 80. 

Laughton, Prof. Sir J. K., vi, 12, 
Leon, attack on, 109. 

Little Providence, island of, 177. 
Logwood-cutters, 34 et seq,, 45, 
L’Olonois, 60, 62, 

Longitude, Board of, 2. 

“ Loyal Merchant,” 63. 

Madras, 142. 

Mahan, Admiral, 20 n,, 21, 251. 
Manila ship, 118, 198, 199, 220, 223 
et seq. 


Manwaring, G. E., vii, 69 251. 

“ Marquis,” 222 et seq* 

Martin, Captain C., 199. 

Masefield, John, vi, 105, 127, i44» 172, 
200, 243, 251. 

Massacre of Amboina, 17. 

Master’s Log of “ Roebuck,” vi, 16 1, ! 

Mercer, Grace, 236, 239, 240, 241. 
Mindanao, 120 ; customs of, 12 1 ; 
plants of, 121. 

Montague, Charles, 149, 15^. 

Morgan, Sir Henry, 36, 43, 60 et seq, 
Morgan, supercargo, 190, 200, 201. 
Morrice, Price, 47. 

Mosquito Indians, 86, 87. 

Murray, Thomas, 3, 150. 

Naval Architecture, 20. 

New Britain, discovery of, 178. 

New Guinea, 177 5 natives of, 177* 
New Holland. See Australia. 

Newton, Captain, 239, 240. 

Nicaragua Town, sack of, 59. 

Nicobar Islands, 128 ; canoe journey 

from, 133. _ « « t. 1 » 

Norwood, boatswain on Roebuck, 
159, 161, 184. 

One-Bush-Key, settlement at, 35 

Orford, Lord, 152, 155, 157> ^^9- 

Our Lady of Cartagena, 94. 

Page, William, 214. 

Paine, Philip, gunner of the ” Roe- 
buck,” 157, 181, 183. 

Painted Prince, 143 et seq., 15 1- 
Panama, attack on, 73. 

Payta, capture of, 106. 

Penton, carpenter’s mate, 180, 183. 
Penzer, N. M., vii. 

Peralta, Don, 74, 77. 

Peron Peninsula, 172. 

Pepys Island, 113. 

Pepys, Samuel, 6, 2r etseq., 151. 
Pickering, Captain, 191. 
Pieces-of-eight, 79, 223. 


Pines, Island of, 40. 

Pirates, 166 5 Algerian, 16 ; and 
buccaneers, 57. 

Plantain, 121. 

Plate, island of, 86. 

I Plunder, agreements about, 225. 

Porto Bello, 65, 67. 

Portuguese, relations with English, 
16, 99, 131, 168, 215. 

Pressed men, 21. 

Prize money, 224, 234. 

Puebla Nueva, unsuccessful attack on, 
76 ; sacked, 109. 

Pulling, Captain John, 187 et seq. 

Puna, capture of, 106, 200 ; sack of, 

Raja Laut, 121 et seq. 

Read, John, izj^etseq., 131, 142, 155- 
“ Revenge,” 99, 112. 

Ringrose, Basil, 63, 65, 73, 77, 78, 84, 
98, 251 ; death of, 117- 
Robinson Crusoe, 103, 134, 196, 220, 

” Roebuck,” vi, 2, 152, 154, 157 5 
bad condition of, 180 ; crew of, 
157 5 delays in sailing of, et 
seq. 5 departure of, 162 ; descrip- 
tion of, 157 ; master’s log of, vi, 
161, 176 ; sinking of, 180. 

Rogers, Dr. B, M. H., 201, 235, 239. 
Rogers. See Woodes Rogers. 

« Royal Prince,” 18 et seq., 179. 

Kma, passim \ rum punch, 38, 41, 

Rumbold, John, 157, 183. 
Rum-ruianers and buccaneers, 63. 
Rupert, Prince, 19, 22 et seq. 

Russell, logwood-cutter, 44. 

Russell, W* Clark, 2, 250. 

«St. George,” 187, 188, 190, 201 5 
desertions from, 198 et seq. ; repairs 
to, 197 ; voyage of, 188 et seq. 

St. George’s Channel, 178. 

St. Helena, island of, 144. 

St. lago, island of, 17, 100. 

St. Lucia, island of, 29, 30. 



Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, 163. 

Santa Maria, 70, 71, 193. 

Santa Pecaque, defeat at, 117. 

Sawkins, Captain, 5, 31, 64, 69 etseq. 5 
character of, 76 ; death of, 76- 
Schuchadero, capture of, 194. 

Scotch East India Company, 150, 

Scott, Lewis, 59. 

Selkirk, Alexander, 103, 19^, 196, 
217 etseq.y 223 ; rescue of, 217. 
Shark, recipe for boiling, 102. 

Shark’s Bay, 172. 

Sharp, Captain Bartholomew, v, 5, 31, 
56, 61, 64 et seq., 195, 251. 
Shelvocke, Captain G., 5, 70 n,, 80 
198, 251. 

Sherbro river, 10 1. 

Shipboard, life on, 166. 

Shovell, Sir Clowdisley, 159, 164, 185. 
Sloane, Sir Hans, 1 50, 203, 234. 
Smallbone, John, 246. 

Smyth, Rear-Admiral, v et seq., 12, 
38 53, 65, 182, 247, 251. 

Sole Bay, battle of, 18, 19. 

Southwell, Edward, 239. 

Southwell, Sir Robert, 150, 203, 204. 
Spaniards and English in W. Indies, 
34 et seq,, 40 n. 

Spanish authority in W. Indies, 16, 
A' 2 'y 59 > 103 - 

Spragge, Sir Edward, 18, 21 et seq. 
Storm, description of, 48. 

Stradling, Thomas, 191, 194, 195. 
Swan, Captain, 8, 84, 102, 105 etseq,, 
1 16, 1 18, 122, 124, 126. 

Tasman, 155. 

Teat, chief mate, 107, 115, 118 119, 
123 etseq, 

TeneriflFe, description of, 163. 

Terra Australis, See Australia. 
Terminos Lagoon, 42 et seq, 

Texel, battle of the, 23. 

Thacker, John, 122. 

Thomas, Toby, 200, 

Timor, island of, 175. 

Tobago, 195, 

Tonquin, 136. 

Tortuga, 59, 96. 

Townley, Captain, 108, 109, ii6, 

Triste, island of, 34 et seq. 

Tristian, Captain, 90, 98, 99. 

Tromp, Admiral, 24. 

Variation at sea, 162, 171, 247. 

Vanbrugh, Carleton, 206, 212, 213, 

Vindkatim, 188, 202, 250. 

Virginia, Dampier in, 96, 97. 

Voyage to Campeachy, 152, 250. 

Voyage to New Holland, 148, 239, 250. 

Voyage to Tonquin, 136, 250. 

Wafer, Lionel, 44, 63, 66, 83, 88, 89, 
92 > 93 > 97 > 9^9 in, 117, 

150, 156, 251.^ 

War of the Spanish Succession, 187. 

Warner, Captain, 29 et seq. 

Warships, architecture of, 20 5 crews 
of, 21. 

Water, lack of in Australia, 175. 

Watling, Captain, 81, 82, 102. 

Watson, ship’s carpenter, 176, 183, 

Welbe, John, 188, 190 etseq,, 200, 21 1, 

Weldon, Captain, 136, 140. 

Whalley, Mr., 31, 32. 

White Indians, 85. 

William, Prince of Orange (afterwards 
William ill), 19, 130, 176, 177, 185. 

Woodes Rogers, 2, 201, 204 et seq, 5 
success o^ 5, 224, 234 ; tact^ of, 
209, 215, 232 ; thrashes his pilot, 
208 5 wounding of, 227, 231, 232. 

Wright, Captain, 91, 92, 94, 96, 97. 

Yanky, Captain, 91, 92, 94, 96 etseq, 

“ Young Devil ” Tavern, Temple 
Bar, 201. 




A new uniform series of biographies of the 
great explorers, published under the general 
editorship of Milton Waldman. Illustrated. 
Demy 8vo. 12 s. 6d. net each volume. 

The aim of The Golden Hind Series is to present, in a form 
suitable for the general reader, new lives of the great explorers 
written by well-known men of letters which are at the same 
time reliable history and attractive biography. 

Each volume is well illustrated from contemporary prints 
and maps and contains a working bibliography and a full index. 
The books are attractively printed, produced, and bound in 
uniform style, and The Golden Hind Series is sure to find a 
place in every well-chosen library. 



CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH. By E. Keble Chatterton. 
HENRY HUDSON. By Llewelyn Powys. 

SIR WALTER RALEIGH. By Milton Waldman. 
WILLIAM DAMPIER. By Clennell Wilkinson. 



SIR JOHN HAWKINS. By Philip Gosse. 






Very brilliantly has Mr. Benson sketched that marvellous epoch in 
our history when ‘ the Jezebel of the North ’ held court among her 
captains and gallants, and King Philip was a colossus overshadowing 
the world with (as it proved) a figure of straw. It is a fascinating, 
vital time, full of the beginnings of English greatness. . . . The mad and 
merry story of Drake’s attack on Nombre de Dios has been the delight of 
boys since England took a pride in her history ; no one has ever told it 
more vividly and vigorously than Mr. Benson. . . . His passing is told 
in a few simple words, whose quality gives the keynote of this splendid 
history — 2. book indeed which will live to quicken the pulse and stir 
the imagination as long as Drake’s drum stays in Devon.” — Spectator. 

“ Mr. Benson tells an excellent story excellently. . . . The present 
fine volume is a book for everybody. It is serious enough for the 
historian and fascinating enough for the schoolboy. If the other 
volumes reach this level, the Golden Hind Series will do well.” 

Dail^ News. 

‘‘ A lively and sincere account, not only of the epoch-making struggle 
with the Spaniards, but also of the early life and discoveries of a certain 
Englishe man named Francis Drake.’ . . . We are put into the right 
disposition for understanding the genius of this triumphant adventurer, 
and by virtue of our biographer’s scrupulous accuracy and keen im- 
aginative insight, enabled to follow step by step his amazing career. 
His description of the passing of the Armada is a fine piece of work. 
From the beginning to the end Mr. Benson reconstructs the story of 
Drake admirably ,” — New Statesman. 





“ This book is sound history and stirring biography. John Smith 
is worthy of a place with Drake and Hawkins among the intrepid 
pioneers of the Elizabethan era.” — Dai^ MaiL 

“ Mr. Keble Chatterton’s narrative is well sustained, and though 
occasionally slangy, always vigorous. The illustrations and maps 
of this admirably got up book deserve commendation .” — Daily News, 

“ Mr, Chatterton has succeeded in making the Smith of legend 
credible. He explains actions of his that are not too firmly authenti- 
cated in the light of others which are not disputed, and by insisting 
on the ‘ motif of adventure,’ as Smith’s guiding principle he has given 
a coherent account of a many-sided man. Mr. Chatterton possesses 
the self-restraint and sense of proportion to dwell on what is of per- 
manent value in the achievement of Smith at greater length than on 
what is spectacular and entertaining .” — Times Literary Supplement, 

“Mr. Chatterton has done well to revive, in this most fascinating 
volume, the memory of the least-known of great Englishmen, and it 
should meet with a fitting welcome at the hands of a generation all 
agog for adventure. The author — ^and no man is better qualified 
to do so — gives interesting details of the ocean-going ships of the period, 
design, rig, composition of crew, and the like, which enhance the 
realism of the narrative .” — English Review, 





“ Man has always turned to the sea in search of romance, and no 
more romantic figure than Henry Hudson ever went down to do 
business in the great waters. Mr. Powys has been fortunate in his 
subject, and his book should be welcome to an age that does its ex- 
ploring from an arm-chair .” — Daily News, 

“ There is a fine, invigorating atmosphere about the Golden Hind 
Series, and Mr. Llewelyn Powys has responded splendidly to his 
inspirations in this brisk and buoyant Life of Henry Hudson. The 
entire story is compact with the elements of romance, and Mr. Powys 
has given it new vitality in a narrative that reads as freshly as any boy’s 
adventure book .” — Daily Telegraph, 

“ Mr. Powys is a little prone to underline the picturesque, and to 
pad his narrative with moralizing ; but he has passages of admirable 
description, and is at his best, as he should be, in telling of the final 
tragedy of mutiny and desertion in Hudson’s Bay. He has achieved 
a distinct ‘ scoop ’ in unearthing the verdict on the mutineers, part of 
which is reproduced. A word of thanks must be added for the clear 
sketch-maps and full bibliography.” — Nation, 

“ Plere is a book of real life, more imaginative, more adventurous, 
more fascinating than any concocted novel .” — Country Life, 





“The suite of monographs on Elizabethan adventurers, issued 
under the happily selected inclusive title of ‘ The Golden Hind Series,’ 
will be a fortunate venture indeed, alike for its publisher and for the 
reading public, if it continues at the level attained by Mr. Milton 
Waldman in his memoir of Sir Walter Raleigh. Mr, Waldman has 
produced a good book on a most interesting subject .” — Sunday Times. 

“ Mr. Waldman, in writing this book, has had the advantage of 
consulting material not available to his predecessors. He has made 
the fullest use of it, and the result is a volume which is an important 
contribution to a series of historic value .” — Daily Telegraph. 

“ Mr. Milton Waldman’s volume on Raleigh is a worthy ship of 
the line in that well-found series that has the Golden Hind for its 
flag-ship. The book is rather more than a piece of history, and, 
judged purely as a discriminating biography, it must rank high.” 

Daily News. 

“ Without introducing any fanciful theories of his own, Mr. Wald- 
man has produced a wonderfully complete picture of this versatile 
and baffling genius — ^this Elizabethan Alcibiades. There is a welcome 
chapter on Raleigh’s writings, in prose and verse ; and the book ends 
with a moving description of his courageous death — ^all the more 
effective because it is written with restraint .” — New Statesman. 





“The ‘Golden Hind’ series of maritime biographies, which 
already included admirable studies of the careers of Francis Drake, 
John Smith, Henry Hudson, and Sir Walter Raleigh, has now put 
lovers of English history under a new obligation by adding this excellent 
biography of Martin Frobisher.”— Times. 

“ Mr. William McFee is to be thanked for his excellent biography 
of this litde-known man who was ‘ full of strange oaths, jealous in 
honour, sudden and quick in quarrel.’ ” — Daily News. 

“ This book, which is full of significant evidence, rapidly displays 
the tragic drama unfolding to the end we know ; and we remember 
no other popular volume more likely to excite a general reader to a 
wider study of that difficult but vastly important era, in which there 
was enough ‘ romance ’ to prompt epics by the half-dozen. Mr. 
McFee has written a little history which is real and urgent.” 

H. M. Tomlinson in the Manchester Guardian. 

“ Mr. McFee has built up out of the comparatively scanty material 
at his disposal a vivid picture of the hard-bitten, irascible Yorkshire- 
man and the great times in which he lived, wherein are admirably 
blended the qualities of the historian and the imaginative writer.” 





> .»♦•»■ < 

Aoon. No 

1. Books may be retained for a period not 
exceeding fifteen daj^.